Fr. Jacques Hamel. / Diocese of Rouen, Wikipedia.
Denver Newsroom, Jul 26, 2022 / 17:16 pm (CNA).
Six years after Father Jacques Hamel was murdered by knife-wielding terrorists while celebrating Mass at his parish church in northern France, locals gathered to commemorate his life and to pray.
“We enter into prayer where Jacques fell, victim of the madness of men,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen said at the suburban Rouen church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray.
An eyewitness said the 85-year-old priest twice told the attackers “Begone, Satan!” before they slit his throat.
Three nuns and several parishioners were present when the attack took place. One elderly parishioner was severely hurt when the attackers tried to take him hostage. The two attackers, both 19 years old, were killed by police as they exited the church.
Hamel’s death shocked France and much of the world. Pope Francis offered a Mass for the priest shortly after the attack, calling Hamel a martyr.
The latest commemorations come months after a French court convicted four people for crimes relating to the attack.
“This trial helps us to mourn, even if it is difficult to do. Because Father Jacques Hamel is more alive than ever,” Lebrun said, according to France 3 News.
The commemorations began before Mass, with the archbishop and several dozen others walking in a procession to the church, the French newspaper Le Figaro reports. Hamel’s sister, Roseline was among them, escorted by civic leaders including the local prefect, the president of the department, and Mayor of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray Joachim Moyse.
A civic ceremony followed the Mass.
“Father Jacques Hamel exercised his ministry in simplicity, joy, fidelity to the end, to the gift of martyrdom,” Lebrun said after the ceremonies. He noted that the gospel reading on the day of Hamel’s murder concerned the parable of the wheat and the tares: “the good and the bad plants are mixed together and Jesus asks us to wait before they are separated because he always had the hope that the bad becomes better.”
In July 2021 the French weekly La Vie published documents that it said came from the French intelligence agency, the General Directorate for Internal Security. The documents included transcripts of communications between Hamel’s attackers and Rachid Kassim, an Islamic State leader responsible for recruiting French-speaking militants.
In one communication from Syria just seven days before the murder of the priest, Kassim instructed Abdel-Malik Petitjean, one of the two terrorists, on how to conduct the attack.
In March, four men were convicted of terrorist conspiracy after a three-week long trial. Three of the men convicted received between eight and 13 years in prison. A life sentence was given to a fourth man, a known Islamic State recruiter who was tried in absentia. Three of the defendants reportedly asked for forgiveness during the trial.
The Rouen archdiocese began a preliminary inquiry into Hamel’s sainthood cause in 2016 after Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period. Lebrun announced the formal opening of the priest’s cause on April 13, 2017. During the diocesan phase of the investigation, archivists transcribed 600 homilies preached by Hamel.
Many pilgrims have visited the church where he was killed. The parish has launched a fundraiser to renovate a reception space near the church to host visitors.