FRANCE – Muslims attend Mass in solidarity after priest’s murder
As shockwaves continue to be felt over the horrific murder of a defenceless 84-year-old priest in a Normandy church last week, the Catholic church in Paris called for peace. All Muslims in the city were invited to embrace a “fraternal” greeting and join Catholics in prayer on Sunday.
Church leaders stated: “Leaders and faithful Muslims are invited to visit the churches that are close to them on the occasion of the Mass this Sunday.
“Parishes are invited to organize a fraternal greeting people at the entrance of the churches throughout the Sunday Masses.
“They will welcome the Muslim people who want to come forward and accompany those who wish to attend the mass.
“It will allow parishioners and local communities of Muslims to build links and is encouraged to promote brotherhood and dialogue as opposed to the hate and division business conducted by terrorists. Christ is our peace. “
Muslims across France responded by attending Catholic Mass in a gesture of solidarity after Fr Hamel’s murder. France’s Muslim council, the CFCM, urged Muslims to show “solidarity and compassion” over the murder. “We are all Catholics of France,” said Anouar Kbibech, the head of the CFCM.
Special services were held in Rouen as well as in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. “We’re very touched,” said the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun.”It’s an important gesture of fraternity. They’ve told us, and I think they’re sincere, that it’s not Islam which killed Jacques Hamel.” Fr Jacques Hamel was killed in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen by two men who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Two of the nuns who were held hostage have now spoken for the first time of the terror attack and revealed the men were smiling as they committed the murder. Sister Huguette Peron said: “I got a smile from the second (man). Not a smile of triumph, but a soft smile, that of someone who is happy.”
The people of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray have united in their revulsion at the act. Muslims in the local community of Rouen have reacted with anger after Adel Kermiche and Abdelmalik Petitjean were shot dead following the attack. “What this young man did was sinful, he is no longer part of our community,” said local man Khalid El Amrani.
Mohammed Karabila, imam of one of the town’s mosques, stated: “We’re not going to taint Islam with this person. We won’t participate in preparing the body or the burial.” It has not been confirmed whether the Mayor’s office will allow the men to be buried at all.
Muslims in Italy also attended Mass last Sunday. Three imams sat in the front row at Santa Maria Trastevere church in Rome.
However, despite the gesture of solidarity, many churches are reported to be taking up the offer of help in improving defence of their buildings in light of the terrorist threat. Metropolitan Police Service Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: “Following recent events in France, we are reiterating our protective security advice to Christian places of worship and have circulated specific advice today.
“We are also taking this opportunity to remind them to review their security arrangements as a precaution.
“This is part of our ongoing work with faith organisations, as well as other sectors, to help ensure the safety and security of their staff, visitors and members.”