French priest's martyrdom a life-changing event, archbishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The martyrdom of a French priest
killed a year ago while celebrating Mass was an event that “has
transformed me as a bishop,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen said.

Jacques Hamel’s life — “simple and exemplary — questions me as a
pastor and shepherd on how to consider the life of priests, on what I expect from
them in terms of efficiency. I must tirelessly convert, to pass from this
request for efficiency
to admiration for their fruitfulness,” the archbishop said in an interview with the
Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Hamel was murdered July 26, 2016, when two men claiming allegiance to
the Islamic State stormed his parish church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near

After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Father
Hamel’s throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Witnesses say that in
his final moments, the beloved 85-year-old parish priest tried to push away his
attackers with his feet, saying “go away, Satan.”

Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending
the hostage situation.

Despite the violent nature of Father Hamel’s death at the
hands of terrorists claiming to be Muslims, his martyrdom instead has drawn the
Catholic and Muslim communities in the diocese closer together, Archbishop Lebrun said.

“This tragic event shared by others has brought me
closer to the local society in its diverse components: naturally to the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray and
then to the other municipalities in the area,” the archbishop said.
“And from now on, I am bound to the Muslim community and to the other
communities of
believers in the territory of my diocese.”

Father Hamel’s martyrdom drew the attention of Pope Francis
who celebrated a memorial
Mass for him Sept.
14, 2016, with Archbishop Lebrun, Roselyne Hamel, Father
Hamel’s sister, and 80 pilgrims from the diocese.

When Archbishop Lebrun presented the pope with a photo of Father Hamel, the
pope asked him to place it on the altar and after the Mass told the archbishop,
“You can put this photo in the church because he is ‘blessed’ now, and if
anyone says you aren’t allowed, tell them the pope gave you permission.”

Archbishop Lebrun told L’Osservatore Romano that he then spoke
with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes,
regarding the opening of Father Hamel’s sainthood cause and the possibility of
accelerating “the process to take advantage of the elements of proof which
are the testimonies of the other victims of the attack, who are mainly

The first meeting in the process for Father Hamel’s sainthood cause took place May 20, and the results of the local investigation into his life should be completed and ready
for Vatican review from one to three years from now, the archbishop said.

Meanwhile, Father Hamel’s life and martyrdom remains
“an extremely powerful event” that has united the diocese, priests,
the church in France, people within the territory and the Muslim community, Archbishop Lebrun said.

“Father Hamel has sown peace,” he said.

– – –

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article