Four men accused of terrorist conspiracy after the murder of the French Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel in 2016 were convicted on Wednesday.
“Justice is done,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen said after the verdict on March 9. “[The court] has discerned the good from the bad as much as possible, it has judged and for the good of society, for the good of the men present in the dock.”
The trial against four people on charges of terrorist conspiracy in Hamel’s murder began on Feb. 14.
The 85-year-old priest was killed in a terrorist attack while he offered Mass in the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, in the northern French archdiocese of Rouen, on July 26, 2016.
Four people were held hostage during the attack, which also left one elderly Massgoer seriously injured.
The two 19-year-old men who stabbed Hamel and injured a second man were killed by police as they left the church. The four men convicted on March 9 were accused of criminal association with the attackers.
Three of the men convicted received between eight and 13 years in prison. A life sentence was given to a fourth man, a known Islamic State recruiter who was tried in absentia.
A lawyer for the man injured in the 2016 assault said that there was a feeling of “spirituality” in the courtroom during the three-week trial.
He said that relatives of victims held hands with defendants and the injured man expressed his forgiveness, the Associated Press reported.
Three of the defendants also reportedly asked for forgiveness during the trial.
Archbishop Lebrun said on Wednesday that “silence will follow the verdict.”
“I will have to digest what I have heard, to meditate on it,” he said. “Evil is terrifying. To pervert the relationship to God to the point of killing in his name has shaken me and challenged me deeply. Am I certain that I and my community are faithful to our God of love, justice, and peace? This question is my mission.”
The archbishop thanked Hamel’s family and the other victims of the attack for having chosen “life and the opposite of hatred, that is to say, forgiveness or the hope of forgiveness.”
He also addressed the three men condemned to prison time, noting that he had heard they had chosen “the path of the Good Thief.”
“This is my prayer nourished by their strong, unexpected words. The question of what will become of Yassine, Farid, and Steven is the most important question,” he said. “They know that they must act after their words.”
“Thank you to the judicial institution for having put itself at the service of the truth, in fact at their service, at our service,” Lebrun said.
He said that the three weeks of trial were a descent into hell.
“Violence, lies, cowardice, perversion of faith, moral misery, the bankruptcy of our society have filled these weeks,” he observed.
“But all this has no hold on the true faith that builds brotherhood, it has no hold on the love chosen by grace and not by merit, it will not be able to overcome the example and the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel, which indicate the way to true life.”
“The justice of God remains present to my faith,” the bishop added. “It certainly discerns good from evil and, and, above all, it pursues the heart of man until he returns to goodness, until he returns to the source of love, until he returns to Him, God, the true God, the merciful.”