On Tuesday, July 26, one day after the official start of World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, two terrorists pledging allegiance to ISIS stormed into a parish church in Normandy, France.
From The New York Times:
Father Hamel was celebrating Mass on a Tuesday morning when two men with knives entered the small church and slit his throat, an attack that horrified people across France in the world. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the two assailants — who were shot dead by the police — were “soldiers” retaliating against the United States coalition fighting the group in Iraq and Syria.
According to reports, the 86-year-old priest, who could have retired at 75, was dedicated to his parish and community, and was universally beloved.
A parishioner was also wounded in the attack.
Abbe Jacques Hamel, born in 1930 in Darnétal and ordained a priest in 1958, was vicar of the parish of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. He celebrated his golden jubilee in 2008. Also taken hostage were two nuns and two worshipers. Another nun managed to escape and was able to alert authorities.
Also from The New York Times:
The Rev. Alexandre Joly, a priest from a nearby parish, expressed horror at the killing of Father Hamel. “It’s the moment when the priest is giving this act of love, that he is killed,” Father Joly said. “It’s incomprehensible.” He described Father Hamel as “very kind” and “someone whom no one could hate.”
Another priest described him as a “humble, gentle person.”
For my day job, I manage social media and create Internet content for Family Theater Productions, a Holy Cross apostolate and film/TV/digital production company, based on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
It was founded in the late 1940s by Irish Holy Cross priest Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., the “Rosary Priest,” seen here, appropriately, praying a rosary with Mother Teresa.
Above them is one of Father Peyton’s favorite sayings. The other one is:
The family that prays together stays together.
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C., who once ran FTP, is now president of the parent organization, Holy Cross Family Ministries, based near Boston. He’s currently at World Youth Day — where Catholic youth from around the world are encountering Pope Francis and Christ — so I asked him if he would gather some reactions from folks he sees there.
This is what he saw and heard.
Mackenzie VanMeveren Watkins:
“Father Jacques is a martyr, and I am horrified and sad for our future all over the world. I think we are living in some of the worst times, with ISIS finding a way to steal our joy about once a month these days. I am also sad at the lack of coverage in the media, and how little my generation seems to know about anything going on in the world. I hope we can spend less time on social media and more time in prayer and fasting for the good of the whole world. “
“I actually had not heard the details about Father Jacques Hamel until I arrived to World Youth Day. In my opinion, he is in every sense of the word a martyr and an unbelievable example of what is means to be courageous.
The grieving the international Catholic community feels over Father Jacques is very real, but his memory will never be forgotten. His actions have made him a saint, and is something we as Catholics need always remember. His unwavering faith is something I will take with me and shows the evil in this world that our faith is real and true.”
Seminarian Alec Sasse:
“I’m very troubled by this murder. It’s a heinous and evil attack on the Church Herself. But I’m also captured by the beauty that this priest died as Christ did: laying down his life while bringing salvation.”
Pothula Guna, Catholic priest from Canada:
Father Willy reports that he feels terrible and sad. “Pope Francis says this is war, we need to pray for conversion of terrorists.”
There’s lots more WYD content from Father Willy on our Facebook page (which I hope you’ll like, along with our Twitter and Instagram), along with lots of great graphics and videos, a blog that looks at faith and family in the media, and updates on our prayer events and original productions:
Images: ©Twitter: Abbé Grosjean/Family Theater Productions/Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.