ROME — Local politicians and clergy honored the third anniversary of the death of the French priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered by two jihadists while he was celebrating Mass.
On the morning of July 26, 2016, two 19-year-old Islamic State radicals, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, burst into Hamel’s church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” They seized Hamel along with five other members of the congregation and eventually slit the priest’s throat.
Just before his death, Hamel told one of his assailants, “Be gone, Satan!”
To mark the anniversary, the church where Hamel was murdered held a rosary vigil last week along with a directed meditation by a local priest and a testimony from Alain Quibel, who was present during the attack.
On Friday, locals processed through the streets of the town in a silent march to the church where Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, France, celebrated Mass in remembrance of the martyred priest.
“It’s right for our spirit to rebel against the homicide of a priest in his church, against all forms of violence,” the archbishop said during his homily.
“We must fight for peace,” he added. “Father Jacques Hamel gave his life for this.”
The mayor of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Joachim Moyse, offered a similar message.
“Jacques Hamel promoted a discourse of peace and fraternity, and it’s up to us Republicans to apply the conditions of this peace and fraternity,” he said.
For her part, the populist politician Marine le Pen took to Twitter, calling on the French people not to forget the priest’s murder. “Three years ago, Father Jacques Hamel was executed by Islamist barbarians in the heart of his church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray. No Frenchman can forget the horrible murder of this priest. The fight against Islamist gangrene must remain a top priority!”
Last April, the cause for Hamel’s beatification took an important step forward as the Vatican received a massive dossier on his case from the archdiocese of Rouen.
Lebrun came to the Vatican to deliver the dossier personally to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, together with a delegation of some 40 young people from the archdiocese.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the head of the department that oversees sainthood, greeted Lebrun and his delegation and received the six heavy boxes filled with papers on Hamel, fruit of a two-year investigation into the details of the priest’s life and death.
The cardinal said that Hamel’s case is a “priority” for Pope Francis and will get special attention among the 1,500 causes currently under review. The sainthood cause was officially opened at the diocesan level in April 2017, after Pope Francis waived the mandatory five-year waiting period.