Exactly a week after two terrorists killed Father Jacques Hamel while he said mass in his own church, nearly 2,000 mourners paid their respects to the Catholic priest described by his sister as “my brother. Everyone’s brother…”
The powerful and emotional ceremony at Rouen cathedral, attended by the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, and religious leaders including Muslim representatives, took place amid high security.
Hundreds of people who could not get into the cathedral watched the ceremony from under umbrellas on a big screen.
Dominique Lebrun, archbishop of Rouen, told mourners that after his throat was slit, Hamel pushed one of his attackers with his feet, saying: “Get away, Satan.” Praising the murdered clergyman for 58 years of loyal service to the church, he said: “Jacques, you were a loyal disciple of Jesus. Where you went you did good.”
Saluting representatives of the Muslim and Jewish faiths, he called for peace and tolerance adding: “Never again”. It was not a question of forgiving those who had made a “pact with the devil”, but called on those taken by “demonic madness” to remember their mothers “who gave you life”.
Roselyne Hamel, the priest’s elder sister, told the congregation her brother had served in the Franco-Algerian war but had refused an officer’s commission because he would not “order men to kill other men”.
In a tearful tribute, Hamel’s niece, Jessica Delporte, added: “After Charlie Hebdo I posted this phrase [on Facebook] ‘Oh my God, let’s keep our tolerance and discernment’, never thinking I would have to apply that phrase to myself with so much force and conviction.”
Hamel, 85, was among six people taken hostage when two men who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State stormed the church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray.
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SOURCE: The Guardian, Kim Willsher