An elderly French priest murdered a week ago by two extremists tried to push away his attackers with his feet, saying “go away, Satan”, the archbishop of Rouen has told his funeral Mass.
Hundreds of priests and bishops filled Rouen cathedral along with many hundreds more people, including Muslims who have joined in the grieving since the murder of 85-year-old Fr Jacques Hamel, who was slashed by his attackers while celebrating morning Mass at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
The priest’s murder sent shockwaves through other faiths and all of France.
It came less than two weeks after 84 people were killed in a truck attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice.
“Evil is a mystery. It reaches heights of horror that take us out of the human,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said during the two-hour Mass.
“Isn’t that what you wanted to say, Jacques, with your last words, when you fell to the ground? After you were struck by the knife, you tried to push away your assailants with your feet and said, ‘Go away, Satan.’ You repeated it, ‘Go away, Satan.’”
With those words, Archbishop Lebrun said, “You expressed... your faith in the goodness of humans and that the devil put his claws in.”
Roselyne Hamel, the priest’s sister, told the crowd: “Let’s learn to live together, let’s be workers for peace.”
Archbishop Lebrun extended thanks to Catholics attending the service but also to “believers of other religious faiths, in particular the Jewish community and the Muslim community, very affected and already decided to unite for: Never again”.
He invited people to return to churches on August 15, the day celebrating the Assumption of Mary, to express that “violence will not take over in their hearts”.
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