Slain French priest may be made a saint

Jacques Hamel, the French priest brutally slain by two ISIS sympathizers as he was celebrating Mass in late July, is a martyr, Pope Francis says. This suggests sainthood for the murdered priest may not be far off.

The pontiff also said that killing in the name of God is “satanic.”

On Wednesday morning, Francis celebrated Mass in honor of the murdered priest, joined by 80 pilgrims from Hamel’s French diocese of Rouen. The celebration was live-streamed through the Vatican’s YouTube channel.

In his homily, the pontiff called the priest “blessed,” the step prior to sainthood, asking the faithful to pray for his intercession, so that he “gives us the courage to say the truth: to kill in the name of God is satanic.”

“This man accepted his martyrdom next to the martyrdom of Christ, on the altar,” Francis said during his improvised homily, which was interpreted into French as he was delivering it. “He was beheaded on the Cross, as he was celebrating the sacrifice of Christ’s cross [the Mass].”

Hamel had retired nearly a decade ago, but continued to serve as an assistant priest at the church in St Etienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen. When the two assailants burst into the church on July 26, he was leading the service in the absence of the regular priest.

“This makes me think so much… amidst the difficult moment he was living, amidst the tragedy that he saw coming, this humble, good man, who worked for fraternity, didn’t lose the lucidity to accuse and clearly named his assassin. He said clearly: ‘Satan, go!’”

Hamel, Francis said, gave his life “in the same sacrifice of Jesus on the altar. And from there, he named the author of the persecution.”

“He gave his life for us so as not to deny Jesus,” Francis said. “He is a martyr and martyrs are beatified.”

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