Vatican City, Apr 24, 2017 / 10:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday comforted the sister of Father Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest who was killed by ISIS sympathizers while celebrating Mass in Normandy, France last summer.
According to the Associated Press, the Pope gripped the hands of Roselyne Hamel and spoke quietly to her during an April 22 liturgy honoring the “new martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Rome’s Tiber Island.
Fr. Hamel was killed July 26, 2016 while celebrating Mass after two armed gunmen stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy. The assailants entered the church and took the priest and four others hostage. Local law enforcement reported that the priest’s throat was slit in the attack, and that both of the hostage takers were shot dead by police. The attackers were identified as Islamist extremists.
Pope Francis issued a statement at the time decrying the “absurd violence.” He later said during a Mass in September at the Vatican in honor of Fr. Hamel that the slain priest “is blessed now,” according to Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen who was there. The Pope referred to the priest as “an example of courage” because “he emptied himself to serve others, to build brotherhood among men.”
Last October, the French diocese of Rouen officially began an inquiry into the beatification of Fr. Hamel after the Pope waived the traditional five-year waiting period.
At the service Saturday, Roselyne shared with the congregation how her brother was “strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and — I am certain — also for his killers.” She said that his death was a witness for the whole world, and continued the ‘yes’ with which he had given his life in service to Christ at the moment of his ordination.