Pope Francis said has expressed sorrow at the news of the Aug. 9 murder of French priest Fr. Olivier Maire, as he extended his condolences to the priest’s family, community, and all Catholics in France.

During his general audience today, Aug. 11, the pope said he learned of the murder of the priest in western France “with great sorrow.” Fr. Olivier Maire, 61, was the French provincial superior of the Montfort Missionaries (the Company of Mary). His murder was announced on Aug. 9 by the country’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

“I extend my condolences to the Montfortian religious community in Saint laurent-sur-Sèvre, in Vendée, to his family and to all the Catholics of France,” Pope Francis said. “I assure you of my sympathy and my spiritual closeness. To all, my blessing.”

Fr. Maire was killed in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, a commune in the Vendée department, western France. The town is home to the Basilica of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, where the founder is buried and where St. John Paul II preached in 1996.

The French bishops’ conference and the Conference of Religious of France said in a joint statement on Aug. 9 that the man suspected of killing the priest “was staying with Fr. Olivier Maire” at the time of the murder.

Media named the suspect as Emmanuel Abayisenga, a 40-year-old man of Rwandan origin who is also suspected of starting the fire at Nantes cathedral in July 2020.

Abayisenga was questioned by police Aug. 9 in connection with the murder.

French media reported that the suspect walked into a police station in Mortagne-sur-Sèvre on Monday morning and told officers that he had killed a priest.