On Wednesday (Sept 14), Pope Francis said Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest knifed to death at his altar by Islamist militants in July, was a “martyr”, and was already on the road to sainthood.
Francis spoke at a special Mass for pilgrims from the Rouen area of France where two attackers stormed into the church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, forced the 85-year-old Hamel to his knees and slit his throat while they chanted in Arabic.
“He accepted his martyrdom there on the altar of Christ,”the Pope said in his homily in the chapel of the guest house where he lives in the Vatican.
“He gave his life for us so as not to deny Jesus,” Pope Francis said, speaking in Italian. “He is a martyr and martyrs are beatified”.
Usually a miracle is needed for a candidate for sainthood to be beatified. But that requirement can be waived if there is evidence that the person died a martyr.
Father Hamel’s killing came as France’s political leaders sought ways to defeat home-grown Islamist violence.
His murder by French citizens was the first Islamist attack on a church in western Europe and came just 12 days after a Tunisian who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) drove his truck through a crowd of Bastille Day revellers in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 84.