Newspaper headlines: Priest killing, Bobby Moore plaque and 'coup d'ecat'

There is shock in Wednesday's newspapers at the killing of a priest in France in an apparent terrorist attack.

The Telegraph says two terrorists, proclaimed as "soldiers" by so-called Islamic State, cut the throat of Father Jacques Hamel after taking worshippers including two nuns hostage during mass at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy.

The paper reports: "Experts said the atrocity marked a new departure for the jihadists following a catalogue of attacks on places of worship in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

"Father Hamel was last night hailed as a 'martyr of faith'."

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, said it was "a new and shocking development - namely the attack on people engaged in the worship of God in a sacred place".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Father Jacques Hamel was killed at morning Mass

The Guardian refers to France being in "profound shock".

"The gruesome attack came less than two weeks after a French-Tunisian man drove at high speed into a Bastille Day crowd in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 84 people and injuring hundreds more," it says.

"Yesterday's attack was described by the French president, Francois Hollande, as an act of terrorism carried out by two followers of Islamic State.

"The two men were shot dead by police as they came out of the church. French police and rapid intervention forces were quickly at the scene."

The Times says Catholics became the latest targets for Islamist terrorists.

"The terrorists were shot dead by police when they left the church behind three hostages whom they sought to use as a shield," it reports.

The i says the attack was the latest in a wave of Islamist atrocities that have set the Continent on edge.

The Mail describes it as an "execution", the Sun as an "atrocity", and the Mirror "gruesome".

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Virus of violence

The Times comments that Islamic State is trying to cultivate bloody strife between faiths.

"On Bastille Day the location was the seafront in Nice," it says. "Last Friday it was a shopping mall in Munich, yesterday a church in Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray.

"A priest was murdered while celebrating mass. It would be understandable, but wrong, to regard Europe's spate of recent terrorist attacks as linked to each other and Islamic State only by the internet.

"Early evidence suggests the perpetrators were 'lone wolves', but the broader picture is of a virus of violence that Isis promotes and celebrates and for which, when plausible, it takes responsibility."

The Telegraph says the idea of a war between radical Islam and Christianity would delight Islamic State, but is hard reconcile with its killing of many more Muslims than Christians or Jews.

"Perhaps the Islamists are targeting Western liberal values more broadly, seeking to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate that once existed across the Middle East and parts of southern Europe?" it questions.

"But that end is poorly served by mayhem in Normandy and Bavaria, lands that were never home to Muslims in the Middle Ages and which have only come to have Muslim residents as a result of those liberal Western values."

Simple but deadly trap

In an excellent article in the Times, Alice Thomson says it is a mistake to avoid the fact that many of the killers are sick as well as wicked.

"A mentally disturbed Syrian migrant who has previously tried twice to commit suicide blows himself up in a Bavarian wine bar, injuring 15 people," she writes.

"A Tunisian immigrant who has undergone psychiatric treatment and has recently become a religious radical murders 84 people on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.

"The depressed teenage son of Iranian asylum seekers kills nine in a Munich shopping mall with a handgun - just three of the atrocities that have turned this into Europe's bloodiest summer this century."

Mental health, she concludes, needs to be addressed not only for the individual but everyone's safety and peace of mind.

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Media captionDaily Telegraph women's editor Claire Cohen and Wall Street Journal European features reporter Charlie Wells join the BBC News Channel to review Wednesday's front pages.

Con Coughlin in the Telegraph says it has long been a central tenet of Islamist ideology that if the extremists were able to destroy liberal Western democracies they would be able to replace them with an Islamic regime.

"For all the republic's secularist pretensions, Catholicism remains part of France's national identity, and the murder of an elderly priest could provoke sectarian tensions of the sort we are more used to seeing in the Middle East, as opposed to the heart of Europe.

"This is just the kind of political chaos Isil wants to create, which is why political leaders must steer clear of this simple but deadly trap."

Claret and blue plaque

The Times and the Guardian both report that Bobby Moore has become the first footballer to be honoured with a blue plaque, days before the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup final in which he led England to victory against West Germany.

The tribute is at 43 Waverley Gardens in Barking, east London, where Moore was still living when he signed for West Ham United aged 16, says the Times.

His daughter Roberta said: "He would be deeply touched and it's wonderful to know that it is going to be here for ever."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Bobby Moore's daughter Roberta with the blue plaque dedicated to her father

The Guardian notes: "It was in Waverley Gardens where Moore developed into a footballer of ability, with kickarounds with his father and uncle on nearby Greatfields Park, and then playing schools and Saturday morning football.

"It was also while living there that he lifted his first silverware, the London-wide Crisp Shield in the 1950-51 season while playing for Barking schools."

Coup 'd'ecat'

Finally, the Times says a Downing Street policeman foiled what it calls a coup d'ecat.

Foreign Office feline Palmerston apparently sneaked through the front door of Number 10 before being promptly evicted by an officer of the law.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Palmerston the cat made a less than diplomatic intrusion into Number 10

Palmerston has been running a turf war with Larry, the Number 10 cat, says the Times, who was otherwise engaged facing off with a squirrel while all this happened.

"Boris Johnson may seem content with being foreign secretary rather than prime minister, but some of his staff have grander ambitions," states the Times.