French media have reported that a women has been found dead at the property, north of the city of Montpellier. Police say a masked man carrying knife and a sawn-off shotgun stabbed the victim.
A police operation got underway at 10 p.m. local time (22:00 UTC) Thursday night in the village of Monferrier-sur-Lez in France's southwestern Herault department.
The assailant burst in on the Maison de Retraite des Missions Africaines (African Missions Retirement Home) carrying a knife and a sawn-off shotgun, a source close to the investigation told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
"An individual, who was masked and armed with a knife and a sawn-off shotgun came into the retirement home where 70 monks live," the source said, adding that his motivation was unknown.
French media said the dead person was an elderly woman, who had contacted police before she was killed with a knife. "For the time being, there is only one victim," Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret said.
There was no indication the attack was linked to Islamic terrorism, French public prosecutor Christophe Barret said on Friday.
"There is no link whatsoever with Islamic terrorism," Barret, who is the public prosecutor for the southern French city of Montpellier, told reporters at a news conference
More than 70 men and women, most of whom served as missionaries in Africa, live at the home.
Later in the night, a local official said the suspect was still at large, but that the residents of the home had been taken to safety.
Officers from the GIGN special operations unit of the French National Gendarmerie were in attendance, BFM-TV added.
Monferrier-sur-Lez lies on the northern edge of the southern city of Montpellier.
Thursday's attack happened just a few months after supporters of the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group murdered a Catholic priest at a church in Normandy.
The secretary general of the French Bishops' Conference, Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, said in a Twitter message: "Our prayers tonight go to the woman who lost her life in this attack on a retirement home."
mm/jm (AFP, Reuters)