Pope Francis at memorial Mass for Fr Hamel – “To kill in the name of God is satanic”
Pope Francis made this strong statement before his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square as he officiated at a Mass for Fr Hamel, the 86-year-old French priest killed by an Islamic terrorist. The Eucharistic celebration was filmed and broadcast live by the Vatican Television Center. The Vatican announced it was a “gesture as a sign of closeness to Fr Jacques Hamel and his family and the whole community of Rouen.” Bishop Monsignor Dominique Lebrun of Rouen and eighty pilgrims from the French diocese attended the Mass for Fr. Hamel who was killed during Mass on 26 July in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where he was pastor.
During his homily which was delivered in Italian and translated into French, Pope Francis reflected how Fr. Hamel, like Christ, was obedient unto death and reminded the congregation how Jesus was the first martyr. The early Christians confessed Christ by paying with their lives and were killed for insisting that ‘our god is true and not yours.’ Ever since, the Church has had many martyrs and in the history of martyrdom, the Pope noted, we arrive at that of Father Jacques, who is part of this chain of martyrs.
“Today, there are Christians martyred, tortured, slaughtered, because they do not deny Jesus Christ” Francis said, and continued by stating “This cruelty that asks for apostasy is – let’s say the word – satanic,” he said, noting, “How much I would like that all the confessions would say: to kill in the name of God is satanic.”
“Fr Jacques Hamel was slaughtered on the cross, just as he was celebrating the Sacrifice of Christ. A good, meek man who always was trying to make peace, was assassinated, as if he were a criminal. This is the thread of satanic persecution, but there is one thing of this man who has accepted his martyrdom there, that makes me think so much about the martyrdom of Christ on the altar.”
“This is the thread of satanic persecution,” Francis said, observing, “In the midst of the difficult time that he lived in the midst of this tragedy he saw coming, he did not lose the clarity of accusing and say the name of the assassination: ‘Go away, Satan!’” At the funeral Mass for Father Hamel, the archbishop of Rouen mentioned that Father Hamel tried to push away his attacker, saying twice, “Go away, Satan.”
“May this example of courage, along with the martyrdom of his life, to empty himself to help others,” Pope Francis prayed that Father Hamel intercedes so the faithful might have “the courage to tell the truth: that to kill in the name of God is satanic.” Francis concluded by saying ”He is a martyr, the martyrs are blessed … We must pray he gives us brotherhood, meekness, peace.”
After the Mass, the Bishop of Rouen Dominique Lebrun met a group of journalists in the Holy See Press Office and gave a brief speech in French. Fr. Hamel’s sister and two parishioners from the martyred priest’s church were also present.
When asked if French Catholics, especially in his diocese, were now afraid to go to church, or if priests were nervous to celebrate Mass, the bishop replied, “Yes. There is fear. Absolutely.”
The French bishop recalled a meeting he had with parish priests from his diocese, who all told him that they had received calls from anxious people who were wondering “if there is Mass, if you can go, if there is some risk.”
In the face of fear, French Catholics are being courageous, still going to Mass. Bishop Lebrun said “there are more people now and that makes me very reflective on the words of Jesus that John Paul II often repeated: ‘Do not be afraid.’” The bishop reminded the journalists that Pope Francis himself had given the French faithful the advice to be courageous.
“I do not believe that Jesus said ‘It is stupid to be afraid,’ or ‘There is no reason to be afraid.’ No, he says, ‘Have the courage to not be afraid,’” Bishop Lebrun added. He concluded: “So yes, I would say that psychologically, there is fear, but at the deepest level of the soul, there is more strength.”