02 August 2016, The Tablet

Thousands attend funeral of murdered Fr Jacques Hamel

Thousands gathered at Rouen Cathedral to celebrate the life of the murdered priest

The funeral of Fr Jacques Hamel, killed while saying Mass last week, was celebrated at two o’clock this afternoon at Notre Dame Cathedral in Rouen.

Fr Hamel’s throat was slit by two 19-year-old men in an attack claimed by the Islamic State.

Philippe Maheut, vicar general of the Diocese of Rouen, told French news channel BFMTV that the coffin would enter through the Cathedral’s Holy Door, which he called "the door of forgiveness and mercy". He said, "Fr Hamel’s stole, the sign of his life as a priest, will be put on the cross of Christ in the choir of the cathedral, as a sign that, like Jesus, he gave his life in a way that was not chosen, but was real."

Dominique Lebrun, Archbishop of Rouen, presided over the funeral and told the congregation that after his throat was slit, Fr Hamel pushed one of his attackers with his feet, saying: “Get away, Satan”.

He praised the murdered clergyman for 58 years of loyal service to the church. “Jacques, you were a loyal disciple of Jesus,” Lebrun said. “Where you went you did good.”

Thousands attended the funeral, including the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. Fr Hamel’s body was interred in a private burial for family only.

On Sunday, over 100 Muslims joined nearly 2000 Catholics at Mass at Rouen Cathedral in a gesture of solidarity and sympathy. They were welcomed by Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, who thanked them "on behalf of all Christians". He said: "You refuse deaths and violence in the name of God. As we have heard from your mouths, and we know you are sincere, this is not Islam."

Muslims returned to the Cathedral this afternoon for the funeral, and were also among the hundreds watching the ceremony on a screen outside, holding flowers and umbrellas.

Among those at the funeral was Mohammed Karabila, Imam of the Yayiha Mosque in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, situated two and a half miles from Fr Hamel’s church. Mr Karabila has said that there will be no prayers at the mosque for Fr Hamel’s killer, Adel Kermiche, who lived locally. "Given that he’s a terrorist who has done us much wrong, he doesn’t deserve any respect," he told journalists. "Having said that, his remains have to be buried somewhere. But there will be no official [mosque] representative and no prayer at the mosque."

Mr Kermiche’s accomplice, Abdel Malik Petitjean, lived in Aix-les-Bains, eastern France, and attended a mosque there.

Both men had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and were shot dead by police after they stormed the church and took hostages.

The Church of Saint Etienne, where 85-year-old Fr Hamel was killed, will be reopened in a few weeks "with a penitential rite of reparation so that the desecrated church may be worshipped in again", stated the Diocese of Rouen.

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