Pope Francis sets ‘martyr’ priest murdered by militants on path to sainthood

Pope Francis has described the priest who was killed by Islamist militants in northern France as a martyr and indicated he may be on course for sainthood. He paid tribute to 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, whose throat was slit by two Arabic-chanting killers, during a special mass on Wednesday. He recalled how the 85-year-old priest cried out to his killers: “Satan, get out!” Francis added: “He accepted his martyrdom there on the altar. He gave his life for us so as not to deny Jesus … He is a martyr and martyrs are beatified.”

This example of courage, and the martrydom of one’s own life, to give everything of oneself to help others, to make brotherhood among others, helps all of us to go forward without fear

Pope Francis

Father Hamel’s relatives, members of his Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish and the Rouen bishop attended the intimate mass in Francis’ hotel chapel. In his homily, Francis lamented the persecution of Christians today and denounced Hamel’s slaying as the “satanic thread of persecution.” A picture of the murdered priest was placed on the altar during Mass at the Pope’s insistence. The priest’s killers, Adel Kermiche and Abdelmalik Petitjean, both 19, had pledged allegiance to Islamic State. They were shot dead on the church steps by police.

A good, humble man, a man of brotherhood who always sought to make peace, was assassinated as if he were a criminal

Pope Francis