The family of Ann Maguire, a Catholic school teacher who was tragically stabbed in front of a classroom of students on Monday, has received words of sympathy from the Vatican's ambassador to Britain.
A much-loved Spanish teacher, Mrs Maguire had been due to retire after working at Corpus Christi Catholic College, Leeds, for over 40 years. She is the first teacher to be killed in a British classroom, and a 15-year-old boy – reportedly a pupil at the school – will appear in court later today charged with her murder.
In response to the tragedy, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Nuncio to Great Britain, has sent a letter to the Diocese of Leeds expressing his condolences and noting "the spiritual closeness" of Pope Francis during this period of mourning.
"Having learnt the sad news of the tragic murder of Mrs Ann Maguire last Monday...I should like to convey to you, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Leeds, as well as to Mrs Maguire's family, friends, colleagues and the whole community of Corpus Christu College, the spiritual closeness of the Holy Father, Pope Francis as well as my sincere sympathy in these difficult moments," he wrote.
"I assure you of my prayers for the repose of the soul of Mrs Maguire and for the consolation and strengthening of all those persons close to her and all those who mourn her sudden death.
"May the Lord grant her eternal rest and reward of her life of dedication and of service to young people and to education."
Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband also expressed their sympathies in the House of Commons yesterday.
Cameron branded the attack "truly shocking, indeed absolutely appalling", while Miliband added that Mrs Maguire was "an inspiration to those she taught and all our thoughts are with her family, friends, and the teachers and pupils of the school".
The tragedy occurred not long after a report published by Sky News which found that 981 children have had weapons confiscated on school premises since 2011, at least 80 of whom were still in primary school.
The report also indicated that one in eight violent crimes involve school-aged children.
Last week, urban youth charity XLP warned that there is "no quick fix" to the problem of pupils carrying weapons in schools, contending that many do so out of fear.
"We need to look seriously and honestly at the context these young people are growing up in," the charity said.
"We need to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with the issues that are causing youth and school based violence in the first place."