(Voice of the Persecuted) France—Father Jacques Hamel, (age 85), was a French Catholic priest in the parish of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in the Normandy region in northern France. Local media reported that he still officiated regularly as an auxiliary priest at the church in St Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, and in neighbouring Elbeuf where he would step in when the parish priest was not available.
While leading the service in the absence of the parish priest on Tuesday morning, two Islamic jihadists entered the church and took Father Hamel, two nuns and two worshipers hostage. But they targeted the elderly priest and slit his throat.
Sister Danielle, one of the hostages, was in the church celebrating mass when the men stormed the building. She described the brutality of the attackers.
“‘They told me, “you Christians, you kill us”. They forced him to his knees. He wanted to defend himself. And that’s when the tragedy happened. They recorded themselves. They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It’s a horror.’
While they were attacking the priest, Sister Danielle managed to escape and call for help. Reports claim one of the hostages, an elderly parishioner, suffered severe knife wounds. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility and two of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack.
When police arrived they tried to negotiate with the attackers, whom prosecutor Francois Molins said had lined up three hostages in front of the door as human shields to prevent police storming the church.
The three – two nuns and one parishioner – exited the church, followed by the attackers, one of whom was carrying a gun, who charged police shouting “Allahu akbar”, Mr Molins added. The pair were shot dead by police.
One of the attackers had fake explosives in a backpack. It would take hours for police to ensure the area was safe.
Father Moanda-Phuati, the parish priest of the Église St.-Étienne, where Father Hamel served, quickly returned from his trip. He spoke about the martyred priest and told French news agency—Le Figaro,
“He was a courageous priest for his age. Priests have the right to retire at 75 but he preferred to work in the service of the people because he still felt strong. He was very popular, a good man, simple and without extravagance. We benefited greatly from his experience and wisdom at the parish of Saint-Etienne. He served people for most of his life.”
Fr. Hamel was loved by the congregation. In the June 2016 edition of the parish news letter, Fr, Hamel shared,
The summer holiday time:
Spring was rather cool. If our moral was somewhat lowered, patience, was going to happen eventually. And the holidays.
The holidays are a time to take a distance with our usual activities. But this is not a simple bracket. It is a time of relaxation, but also of healing, dating, sharing, conviviality.
A Healing time: Some will take a few days for a retreat or a pilgrimage. Other reread the Gospel, alone or with others, as a word that sustains today. Others can recharge the great book of creation admiring them so different and so beautiful landscape that we rise and we talk about God.
May we hear in those moments God’s invitation to take care of this world, do, where we live, a warmer, more human, more fraternal.
a time to meet with relatives, friends: a time to take the time to experience something together.A time to be considerate of others, whoever they are.
A time of sharing: Sharing our friendship, our joy. Sharing our support to children, showing that they matter to us.
A time of prayer as: Attentive to what happens in our world at this time. Pray for those who are most in need, for peace, for a better living together.
It will still be the year of mercy. Are we attentive heart of beautiful things to each and those who may feel a bit more alone.
Let the holidays allow us to refuel friendship joy and relaxation. Then we can, better equipped, hit the road together.
Happy holidays to all!
Vatican Radio reported Pope Francis is horrified and shocked by an attack in a church in Rouen, in northern France, where a priest was slain and another hostage was seriously wounded.
A statement released by Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office said: “we are particularly shocked because this horrible violence took place in a Church, in which God’s love is announced, with the barbarous killing of a priest and the involvement of the faithful”.
Fr Lombardi also said the Pope shares the pain and the horror caused by this absurd violence and expresses firm condemnation of every form of hatred and prays for the victims.
French president François Hollande addressed the nation following the church attack. He visited the scene on Tuesday, said the country is now ‘at war’ with ISIS after the terror group claimed responsibility. He warned that the militant threat in the country has never been so severe. He also said France will use all human and physical resources in the war against Islamist militancy.