The photo taken on June 30, 2016, shows Pope Francis at St Peter's Square in the Vatican. (AFP)
Pope Francis expressed his “pain and horror” Tuesday after two knife-wielding men in northern France took a number of people hostage at a church and killed a priest. 
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the leader of the Roman Catholic Church had been particularly appalled by the "barbaric killing" that happened in a sacred place.
"The pope... participates in the pain and horror of this absurd violence," media outlets quoted Lombardi as saying, adding that the attack created "immense pain and worry."
The Tuesday attack hits particularly hard "because this horrific violence took place in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is announced, and the barbaric murder of a priest and the involvement of the faithful," the Vatican spokesman stated.
Lombardi described the attack "more terrible news that adds to a series of violence in these days that have left us upset, creating immense pain and worry."
President Hollande reacts 
French President Francois Hollande condemned the "vile terrorist attack" in a statement.
Hollande said the two attackers had pledged allegiance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
"Daesh has declared war on us, we must fight this war by all means, while respecting the rule of law, what makes us a democracy," the French president told reporters at the scene in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, south of Rouen.
French President Francois Hollande (C) stands outside the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray city hall after holding a press conference following a hostage-taking at a church in the commune, July 26, 2016. (AFP)
Media reports earlier said between four and six people were held by the assailants at the church in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray before security forces intervened and put an end to the hostage-taking.
The two attackers were later shot and killed by police.
The slain priest was among the hostages. The French Interior Ministry says a second hostage is in a critical condition.
The identities and motives of the hostage-takers remain unknown.
France has been in a state of emergency over the past months. In November 2015, the French capital Paris witnessed attacks that left 137 people dead. The city of Nice also saw a deadly assault on July 14, when 84 people were killed. Daesh claimed responsibility for both acts of terror.
Last week, the French parliament extended the state of emergency for another six months.
The Hollande administration is under fire for what is said to be security failings. It stands accused of not doing enough to protect the population.
Prime Minster Manuel Valls has warned that more attacks by Takfiri terrorists may hit France due to the fact that extremists operating in conflict zones in the Middle East would threaten security upon returning home.