Religious leaders gathered at a memorial to slain French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel Sunday, following the beheading of a Paris school teacher in an Islamist terror attack.
Catholic Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen was joined by representatives of Muslim, Jewish, and other Christian communities Oct. 18 at the memorial near the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Hamel was murdered by Islamists in 2016.
They laid a wreath in honor of Samuel Paty, who was killed Oct. 16 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris. The religious leaders then observed a minute’s silence.
In a statement, members of the interfaith committee of Rouen said they had gathered “to express their shock and utmost condemnation of the murder.”
“God cannot ask to kill,” they said, alluding to reports that the perpetrator, Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, attacked Paty after the teacher showed his class a cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Eyewitnesses said that Anzorov shouted “Allahu akbar” -- Arabic for “God is great” -- as he murdered Paty near the middle school where he taught. The 18-year-old Russian national of Chechen origin was shot dead by police shortly after the murder.
The religious leaders said that they committed themselves, “each according to their tradition, to guide their community, to educate the youth, so that they build a true fraternity with all where dialogue replaces violence.”
Le Comité interconfessionnel de Rouen a déposé aujourd'hui une gerbe en hommage à Samuel Paty devant la stèle érigée en mémoire du Père Jacques Hamel, à Saint-Étienne du Rouvray. Ses membres ont ensuite observé une longue minute de silence en mémoire de l'enseignant assassiné. pic.twitter.com/CNCuNcY4qA
— Diocèse de Rouen - Eglise catholique (@DioceseRouen) October 18, 2020
In a separate statement Oct. 17, Lebrun -- who was Hamel’s bishop -- extended the condolences of Catholics in Rouen diocese to Paty’s family.
“May the murderer and those who feed fanaticism find light in an authentic encounter with God. God never wants death, not even that of the wicked. He wants humanity to turn away from evil to rediscover its vocation to love,” the bishop said in a statement cosigned with two other Catholic officials.
Other French bishops joined Lebrun in lamenting Paty’s murder.
Bishop Éric Aumonier of Versailles, the diocese that includes Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, said Oct. 16 that the killing “shakes us, like all citizens attached to the values of freedom, equality and fraternity.”
“We carry him in our prayers, with his family, colleagues, students, and all those who are deeply wounded by this appalling act,” Aumonier said in a joint statement with Versailles auxiliary Bishop Bruno Valentin.
Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State while offering Mass July 26, 2016. The Rouen diocese began a preliminary inquiry into the priest’s sainthood cause the same year, after Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period.