Father Jacques Hamel
Pope says: "murdered French
priest a martyr, on road to sainthood"
Jacques Hamel (30 November 1930 – 26 July 2016) was a French
Catholic priest in the parish of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray and a Christian martyr.
On 26 July 2016, Hamel was martyred during the 2016 Normandy church attack by
two Muslim migrant men pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant while he celebrated Mass in his church. The president of Lombardy,
Roberto Maroni, and others publicly called for him to be made a saint.
Hamel was born on 30
November 1930 in Darnétal, France.
Hamel was ordained as a priest on 30 June
1958. He served as a vicar at the St. Antoine church in Le Petit-Quevilly from
1958, a vicar at the Notre-Dame de Lourdes church in Sotteville-lès-Rouen from
1967, a parish priest in Saint-Pierre-lès-Elbeuf from 1975, and a parish priest
in Cléon from 1988. He joined the church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in 2000. He
officially retired at the age of 75, but was allowed to keep serving in the
parish. As a result, he assumed his role as the parish's assistant priest from
2005 to his death.
With local imam Mohammed Karabila, the
president of Normandy's regional council of Muslims, Hamel worked since early
2015 on an interfaith committee. After Hamel's death, Karabila described him as
his friend with whom he had discussed religion and as also someone who gave his
life for others.
Death and legacy
Hamel died when his throat was slit by
two Muslim migrant men, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, who both
pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The attack occurred while Hamel was
saying Mass in his parish in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray on 26 July 2016. During
the attack, Hamel remained lucid and said "Satan, go!" to his killers.
Commemorations and funeral
Pope Francis celebrates a special Mass for
Hamel on 14 September 2016
A Mass was held in his memory at Notre Dame de Paris on 27 July 2016. It was
celebrated by the archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, and attended by
president François Hollande, prime minister Manuel Valls and ministers Jean-Marc
Ayrault, Bernard Cazeneuve, Emmanuel Macron and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, as well
as former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the
archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, and the apostolic nuncio to France, Luigi
The Funeral Mass was held at Rouen
Cathedral on 2 August 2016, drawing a crowd of thousands and a large number of
luminaries including senior clerics, the French interior minister Bernard
Cazeneuve and former prime minister Laurent Fabius. Pope Francis instructed
Lebrun to place images of Hamel in all the local churches.
In August 2016, the Italian arm of Aid to
the Church in Need announced it would cover the cost of training 1,000 new
priests in countries like Nigeria, Cuba, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of
Congo and India in response to Hamel's murder.
Discussion of canonization
Hamel has been called a martyr by Pope
Francis and some international press. Pope Francis has also referred to Hamel as
"blessed", usually a title reserved for those who are one step away from
canonization. "This man accepted his martyrdom next to the martyrdom of Christ,
on the altar," Pope Francis said on 14 September during an improvised homily at
a mass held in suffrage for Hamel's soul at the Vatican. "He is a martyr and
martyrs are beatified," the pope continued.
Anthony Fisher, the archbishop of Sydney,
suggested he died in odium fidei ("in hatred of the faith"), adding, "This is a
term Catholics use to describe the characteristic death of a martyr, as one who
dies for his or her faith, and because of that faith." The president of Lombardy,
Roberto Maroni, called on the pope to "immediately proclaim him St Jacques". The
hashtag #santosubito ("saint now") trended on Twitter.
On 13 August, La Croix reported that
archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen said he thought Hamel was a martyr, but the
decision to declare him so was the pope's. He added that "formally, it is the
bishop of the person's place of death to initiate the procedure." He also called
the lay members of his diocese to gather at Hamel's tomb on 15 August.
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