FRANCE – Church where Fr Hamel was murdered reopens after penitential rite
The church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Rouen, where 86 year old Fr Jacques Hamel was brutally stabbed to death by two young men shouting “Allah Akbar” on 26 July is now open again for worship. Fr Hamel was celebrating a mass when he was killed.
On Sunday 2 Oct, two months after that tragedy, the church reopened its doors to the faithful. The celebrations began at 15.30 near the Town Hall with speeches from the mayor and archbishop of Rouen on Place de l’Eglise, from where participants walked in procession to the church.
In his speech to a crowd that included local Muslims invited to take part in the community event, the mayor of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Hubert Wulfranc, said Hamel’s memory “prevails over this so special moment, split between endless emotion and hope in the future.”
“We bear the tragedy of this July 26th, 2016, as an indelible scar on our common history, our national history,” he added.
Mgr Dominiquie Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen said the mayor’s words “bolster us in the desire to participate in the common life of your city and of the world, so we will not repeat the tragedy of (drowned Syrian refugee boy) Aylan nor the tragedy of Jacques Hamel.”
The participants were welcomed into the church by the parish priest Father Auguste Moanda-Phuati. Mgr Lebrun led a special penitential rite to atone for the desecration of the church. The liturgy included the reading of scripture, special prayers and Mass, all of which focused on themes of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. The specific rite used for the Mass was the one prayed in cases of desecration and had been adapted for the occasion.
The Mass was attended by parishioners and other residents, including the head of the regional Muslim council and a local imam. The penitential rite and Mass were scheduled to be broadcast on TV by KTO by and on radio RCF.
Pope Francis honoured Fr Hamel in a Mass at the Vatican last month, calling him a martyr and urging all people of faith to have the courage to denounce killing in the name of religion as “satanic.” Francis said Fr Hamel was already considered a “blessed”, hinting that this may be the first step to possible canonisation.