Pope Francis has waived the normal five-year waiting period to begin the beatification process for Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest whose throat was slit by two Islamic terrorists in his church last July.
During a religious ceremony for the reopening of Father Hamel’s church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Sunday, the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, said that he was initiating the beatification procedure for the martyred priest, having been informed by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints that the Pope had granted the exemption.
In a press conference held aboard the papal plane returning to Rome from the Caucasus, Pope Francis confirmed the report, noting that it was important to begin soon so as not to lose important witnesses who could testify in the process.
On September 14, Pope Francis welcomed a group of French pilgrims from the slain priest’s diocese to his residence in the Vatican, and during Mass he called Father Hamel a Christian “martyr,” a qualification that automatically makes the person a saint in the Church’s eyes.
The Pope said that the French priest is in heaven, noting that “all martyrs are saints (beati).”
“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 Archbishop Lebrun, who was accompanying the group. 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, and 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,” he said, adding that 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.”
“He gave his life so as not to deny Jesus,” the Pope said, while urging those present to ask for the saint’s intercession, that from Heaven he might pray to God for the Church on earth.”
Francis was accompanied at Mass by some 80 French pilgrims who came specifically for the celebration, including the slain priest’s sister, Rosine Hamel.
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