Pope Francis has declared slain French priest Father Jacques Hamel to be a Christian “martyr,” a qualification that automatically makes the person a saint in the Church’s eyes, while also condemning murder “in God’s name” to be the work of Satan.
Without formally canonizing Hamel, on Wednesday morning Pope Francis said that the French priest—who was killed in July by Islamic terrorists—is in heaven, noting that “all martyrs are blessed (beati),” a technical term the Catholic Church uses for those who have been “beatified” or declared to be in heaven.
“You can put this photo in the church, because he is blessed now, and if someone tells you that you do not have the right, tell them that the Pope gave you permission,” Francis told the archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, after the morning Mass celebrated in the Vatican in honor of the martyred priest. He was referring to a photo of the deceased priest, which the Pope had signed.
In an extended reflection on Christian martyrdom, the Pope said in his homily that today there are “more Christian martyrs” than in the early days of Christianity.
“Today there are Christians murdered, tortured, imprisoned, slaughtered because they do not deny Jesus Christ,” he said.
Francis said that Father Jacques Hamel “is part of this chain of martyrs.”
“Christians who suffer today because they will not deny Jesus Christ—whether in prison or by death or torture—they show how cruel this persecution is. And this cruelty that demands apostasy—we say the word—is Satanic.”
The Pope went on to propose what a marvelous thing it would be if all religions could together proclaim: “Killing in the name of God is Satanic.”
Francis words seemed aimed particularly at the Islamic terrorists who kill in the name of jihad, and claim to be accomplishing the will of Allah.
Father Jacques Hamel “was slain on the Cross,” Francis said, “just as he celebrated the sacrifice of the Cross of Christ.”
This good, humble man, who was always trying to make peace, “was assassinated as if he were a criminal,” Francis said. “This is the thread of Satanic persecution.”
Even as he was accepting his martyrdom at the altar, Father Jacques “did not lose the clarity of accusing and clearly saying the name of his murderer, and he said clearly: “Be gone, Satan!”
“He gave his life for us. He gave his life so as not to deny Jesus,” the Pope said, while simultaneously accusing the author of his persecution: “Be gone, Satan!”
The Pope also urged his hearers to ask for the saint’s intercession, that from Heaven he might pray to God for the Church on earth: “Give us meekness, brotherhood, peace, and even the courage to tell the truth: killing in God’s name is satanic,” he said.
Francis was accompanied at Mass by some 80 French pilgrims who came specifically for the celebration, among them the Archbishop of Rouen and the slain priest’s sister, Rosine Hamel.
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