Quite probably, the Islamic State-inspired assassins who cut the throat of Father Jacques Hamel in St. Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, on Tuesday did not know that one effect of their act would be to cast a pall over World Youth Day, but that’s nevertheless exactly what’s happened.
World Youth Day is the massive gathering of Catholic youth from around the planet unfolding this week in Krakow, Poland, known tongue-in-cheek as the “Catholic Woodstock” because it’s normally a pumped-up celebration of fun, family and faith.
This week, however, will have a more somber tone because of the barbarity of what happened to Hamel, this time not in Iraq, Syria or some other battle-scarred locale, but in the very heart of Europe.
(In some ways it recalls the World Youth Day of 2005 in Cologne, Germany, which also unfolded under the shadow of the stabbing death of Brother Roger Schütz of Taizé, the Swiss ecumenical community that has become such a draw for young people. The difference is that Schütz was killed by a mentally disturbed woman in a basically random act of madness; Hamel was killed in specific hatred of the West and of Christianity.)