THE Bishop of Arundel and Brighton has called on the people of Sussex to pray for France following the horrific attacks in Normandy.

Bishop Richard Moth spoke out after the apparently Islamic State-inspired attack on a church resulted in the murder of an 84-year-old priest.

Father Jacques Hamel was reported to have had his throat slashed during an hour-long hostage-taking incident which began as two knifemen burst into the parish church by a back door during morning mass.

Bishop Richard said: “I ask you to pray not only for all those killed and injured in this present attack in Northern France, but for all those affected by terrorist attacks wherever that may be in the world.”

The catholic leader was joined in this call for prayer and condemnation of the attack by Pope Francis who has spoken of “the pain and horror of this absurd violence.”

The Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, who is the Bishop responsible for this area of northern France and who is at World Youth Day with millions of young Catholics in Poland, said: "I cry out to God with all men of goodwill. I would invite non-believers to join in the cry. The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men."

French president Francois Hollande has pledged to fight the Islamic State terror group "using all means possible" after the.

The church, in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, was swiftly surrounded by anti-terror police and the hostage-takers were shot dead as they emerged into the courtyard outside.

Local media reported witnesses said the men shouted "Allahu Akbar" as they came out of the building. One was described as bearded and wearing a Muslim skullcap.

As bomb squad officers searched the church for possible booby-traps, one member of the congregation of four - who included two nuns - was rushed to hospital "between life and death" suffering from serious injuries. Another worshipper was said to have been less severely hurt.

The attack sent shock waves through a nation already reeling from the murder of 84 people in Nice on July 14, when a Tunisian national drove a lorry into crowds enjoying Bastille Day fireworks, as well as earlier atrocities directed at rock fans and sports crowds and the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

At a press conference in Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May offered "my condolences to the French people following the sickening attack in Northern France this morning", adding: "Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected."