It had been closed since the day of the murder of the priest at the hands of two young jihadists. A ceremony of reparation led by the Archbishop of Rouen, followed by Mass. Pope Francis has agreed to the request of the faithful to accelerate the process of beatification. The ceremony was also attended by members of the local Muslim community.
Rouen (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For the first time since July 26, yesterday afternoon, the doors of the church of St Etienne-du-Rouvray, close to Rouen, where Fr. Jacques Hamel, was murdered by two young jihadists, reopened.
After Mass, Msgr. Dominic Lebrun, archbishop of Rouen, announced that Pope Francis has consented to the start an official investigation for the beatification of the priest. Usually the process of beatification can begin no earlier than five years after the candidate's death. Speaking to reporters, Msgr. Lebrun said: "It's brilliant. It is a gesture of consolation and commitment to the parishioners who voiced this desire to the Pope at an audience on August 14 last in Rome".
Before Mass, which was followed by a thousand people inside and outside the building, the archbishop led a ritual of reparation to "cleanse that which has been stained" by the violence. The prelate sprinkled the walls, the floor of the church, the place where Fr. Hamel was assassinated, the altar - which the two young killers have struck several times with a knife -, the paschal candle, a rosary from the statue of the Virgin.
Msgr. Lebrun also explained that the reparation ceremony is important to ask for forgiveness "for all the sins of the world, for their sins and for all others ... Christians cannot ask forgiveness for others if we do not ask forgiveness first for ourselves".
Sister Danielle, 72, one of three religious who escaped the murder’s violence, as well as Guy Coponet, 86, who was seriously wounded in the throat, read the texts of penance and forgiveness from the places where they were assaulted.
The ceremony was also attended by some Muslim authorities and faithful of the nearby mosque. Fr. Hamel’s grave, on the hills over Rouen, has already become a place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims. Many Islamic believers are close to the Christians in grief and condemnation of violence in the name of God.
The author was known by the security forces as dangerous. The attack a few days ahead of the presidential election. The long series of violence in Paris, Nice, Rouen, and Marseilles. Causes to be found among poverty and abandonment in the suburbs, but also of the fundamentalist teaching of many imams in the French mosques.
The young man had tried to go to Syria to fight with the Islamic State. In a video, Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean and Adel Kermiche, the two terrorists, swear allegiance to the "Caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Religious representatives in France: No to religious war. Muslim thinkers: To defeat Isis, guarantee religious freedom for non-Muslim communities in Islamic countries. Others ask for the revision of alliances with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, supporters of the Wahabi jihadism and indirect supporters of the Islamic State.
Hundreds of Muslims attended Catholic Masses yesterday, in a sign of solidarity and mourning for the killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel, near Rouen. His community has been very active in interfaith dialogue. One of the young terrorists who killed him took part in the prayer in the mosque. Manuel Valls proposes education for imams, and the blocking of foreign financing for mosques.
Ahmad Al Tayyeb offers condolences to the French president, the archbishop of Rouen, the victims' families and to the whole of France. The assailants "devoid of any sense of humanity." In Islam "there is the order to respect the sacred places of worship and the sanctity of non-Muslims”. Counter terrorism means also fighting “extremist thought” in Islam.
Sharing and prayer between Christians and Muslims is the way to defeat the violence and nihilism of the fundamentalist fringe. Are the fundamentalists Muslims? Nothing they do is Islamic: to kill old people, children, destroy places of worship. Yet they cover themselves in phrases from the Koran and the aura of executioners, exploiting a literalist reading of the Koran. The time has come for Muslims to promote a theological interpretation of the holy book. By Paolo Nicelli, PIME missionary, professor and an expert on Islam.i