Catholic church to canonize Father Jacques Hamel murdered while celebrating Mass

Two years after the terrorist attack that cost Father Jacques Hamel his life, the church is in the process of his beatification.

Jacques Hamel was born 30 November 1930 and died 26 July 2016. He was a French Catholic priest in the parish of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray.

On 26 July 2016, Hamel was murdered during the 2016 Normandy church attack by two Muslim men, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant while he celebrated Mass in his church.

The circumstances of his death have led him to be called a martyr by Christians,including Pope Francis,non-Christians,and the press. Calls to make him a saint started soon after his death. The canonization cause was officially opened at diocesan level in April 2017, after Pope Francis had waived the otherwise mandatory five-year waiting period for the opening of such causes.

On the same day of the murder, public figures like the president of Lombardy, Roberto Maroni, called on Pope Francis to “immediately proclaim him St Jacques”. The hashtag #santosubito (“saint now”) trended on Twitter.

Dozens of witnesses have already been heard as part of the beatification process for Hamel, with the diocesan phase expected to conclude its investigation by the end of the year.

The pricess if beatification of Father Hamel began in 2017 following the Vatican’s Congregation for the Cause of Saints rescript granting “dispensation” from the five-year delay traditionally required.

The life of Father Jacques Hamel was “very impressive,” said Father Paul Vigouroux, the postulator for the beatification of the assassinated priest.Father Vigouroux, who also comes from the Archdiocese of Rouen, did not know Father Hamel personally but has learned to appreciate the latter’s life of prayer since he began to study the case in May 2017.

In fact, an in depth investigation of the holiness of a candidate’s life forms the first step in the process.“We have not stopped for more than a year,” Father Vigouroux said.

“The diocesan investigation, which covers three areas, should be complete by the end of 2018,” he said.The tribunal established for this purpose includes a priest delegated as a judge by the archbishop of Rouen, a promoter of justice, namely a monk from the Abbey of Saint Wandrille, plus three volunteer lay “notaries,” who play the role of recorders.Testimony has already been gathered from 48 witnesses to Father Hamel’s life, including those present at his assassination, from an anticipated total of nearly 65 witnesses.

Members of Father Hamel’s family will also be interviewed in a series of hearings, each of which takes from two to three hours.More than 600 homilies by Father HamelThe second step of the process is the establishment of a six member “archive commission,” which is responsible for the major task of gathering all the documents relating to Father Hamel’s life, said Father Vigouroux.This commission has now almost completed this work and is expected to present its report in autumn.The third and final research task requires gathering all of Father Hamel’s writings. In this case, however, “no official writings exist and we have not found any private writings,” said Father Vigouroux.

However, he and his team have located nearly 600 homilies drafted by Father Hamel “in the form of extensive notes.”After transcription, two theologians will study “the theological aspects” of Father Hamel’s thought as revealed by the notes.In light of the progress to date, Father Vigouroux is optimistic that the diocesan process will be completed rapidly.

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