Catholic Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen celebrated a Mass on Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel in a terrorist attack.
The Mass took place at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, in northern France, where Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State during Mass on July 26, 2016.
In his homily, based on the day’s Gospel reading, Lebrun said: “The Kingdom of God is built from the smallest of seeds or a little leaven. How can we not think of Fr. Jacques Hamel, an anti-celebrity priest, working in a parish that was apparently little-noticed, who sowed by his presence, by his welcome, by his preaching?”
“It takes time, the time of the plant that grows, the time of the leaven that makes the dough rise. Time is an ally. We are only at the fifth anniversary, if I dare say so.”
Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, attended both the Mass and a civil commemoration in the town in the Normandy region.
“Isn’t murdering a priest in his church a profound attack on the soul of France?” he asked in a video posted on his Twitter account. “And by striking the Catholic Church, the Church of France, the terrorists did not simply strike those who believed in God, they evidently struck all French people.”
The French weekly La Vie published documents earlier this month indicating that the attackers, who were shot dead by police as they exited the church, communicated beforehand with a senior ISIS operative based in Syria.
AFP reported on July 26 that four people suspected of involvement in the attack are scheduled to go on trial in Paris on Feb. 14, 2022.
Lebrun -- who was Hamel’s bishop -- announced the formal opening of the priest’s cause on April 13, 2017.
Lebrun gave the French section of Vatican News an update on the cause on July 24.
He said: “As you know, the pope dispensed us from the five-year time limit for opening the cause, which made it possible to carry out the diocesan investigation.”
“And if I may say so, providentially, this dispensation was welcome because a few weeks ago, the first eyewitness, Jeanine Coponet, passed away, just before the five years elapsed.”
“Then, two years ago, we filed the acts of the diocesan investigation. A year ago, we received the decree of validity, which means that the investigation is valid.”
“Now, all the testimonies are registered at the [Vatican] Congregation for the Causes of Saints and it is no longer ours. We are waiting wisely and I think it is good that the five-year deadline is being respected.”