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French President Hollande to Meet Pope Francis After Priest Murdered by Jihadists

French President Francois Hollande will travel to the Vatican this Wednesday to meet with Pope Francis, reportedly to discuss the fallout from the murder of a French priest by Islamic terrorists last month.

On Monday, Mr. Hollande’s office announced the Rome trip, which will be his second as French president, after meeting with the Roman pontiff in the Vatican in January, 2014.

Although the President’s office did not specify what he and the Pope would discuss, internal sources said that the meeting had been organized “following the events in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray,” in reference to the town in Normandy where two young jihadists cut the throat of the 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel on July 26.

During his brief visit to Rome, Mr. Hollande will first visit the French national church in Rome of Saint-Louis-des-Français to commemorate the victims of terrorism. Afterward, he will cross the Tiber River to meet privately with Pope Francis.

The two jihadists who killed Father Hamel, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, both professed allegiance to the Islamic State terror group. They stormed Hamel’s church on July 26 and cut his throat before a small group of worshippers while he was celebrating Mass.

Just hours after the attack, President Hollande said he wanted to talk by phone with the Pope “to express the sorrow of the French people after the heinous murder of the father Jacques Hamel.” The two men reportedly spoke soon after.

“When a priest is attacked, all of France is wounded,” Hollande said afterward, adding that “everything would be done to protect our churches and places of worship.”

On Monday, Rouen’s Archbishop Dominique Lebrun personally led a pilgrimage to the tomb of the martyred priest Jacques Hamel, having invited all the faithful of the archdiocese to come pray with him at the priest’s grave.

The pilgrimage took place on the Catholic feast of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.

Also on Monday, President Hollande presided a meeting of a new inner council of security and defense for an update on counter-terrorism efforts in France.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter 

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