Terrorist Attack at Tuesday Morning Mass in France

News sources today are reporting that there has been a deadly attack on a church in Normandy France. The attack was carried out in the name of ISIS.

According to President Francois Hollande, two men took several people hostage during morning Mass on Tuesday. Two of those taken hostage were nuns and the other two were churchgoers. Fr. Jacques Hamel, 86, died after the attackers slit his throat in what President Hollande has called a “cowardly assassination.”

The Vatican has also released a statement condemning the attack, as has the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

We will keep you posted on this developing story. In the meantime our thoughts and prayers are with the French Church, and the family and friends of Fr. Jacques Hamel and all those touched by this tragedy.

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18 comments

  1. Prayers for the victim’s family, friends, and country. Rejoice for Father Hamel. He doesn’t need our prayers. I hope very much to see a formal canonization mass at St Peter’s soon. Like next week or something.

  2. An outrage. An atrocity. An act of barbarism. A despicable act. A crime against humanity. A crime against heaven.

    Not a “tragedy.”

  3. Yes, sadness, lament and prayers, on the occasion of this horror — whatever one thinks the most adequate terminology might be for this (the descriptors do say something about the anthropology that underlies our worldview, in my opinion).
    I have two additional thoughts:
    1. my reaction to the calls for swift canonization of Fr. Jacques is great hesitancy… I think the making of a saint takes more than simply being killed by terrorists for being Catholic or even a priest. Fr. Jacques may well have had that more, but it will take time to ascertain that.
    2. More immediately, I want to know something about the ritual that (I assume) will have to be used to reconsecrate this church??? What does this look like these days? And can this become an occasion for some things totally new? For example, the imam of the village expressed his horror at the loss of his friend, Fr. Jacques — what would it look like to involve this imam in this ritual???
    Lots of questions, but above all, sadness, lament, and prayers for peace.

    1. @Teresa Berger:
      The archbishop of Rouen would have to start the process. Fame of martyrdom would be a cause, and then there would need to be a determination of his being killed in odium fidei (the standards for which were taken less narrowly by Pope Francis, in the case of Bl Oscar Romero just last year, than was formerly the case) and there is always the issue of an active cultus and the less obvious matter of a prudential judgment about apt timing. But martyrdom is in a sense a category of miracle for beatification, as no miracle of intercession is required for that stage.

    2. @Teresa Berger:
      The Ceremonial of Bishops prescribes a penitential rite for the bishop to lead, that can be done in the context of Mass or a Liturgy of the Word. I’m not sure a devout Muslim would be entirely comfortable taking part in either. But I imagine readings could be chosen from the options given, and other texts like intercessory prayers written, to be welcoming to non-Christian neighbors. If it were my task to think about how the imam or other members of the local Muslim community might be involved, I think I would look to the provision for flowers to be brought after the altar cloths and candles are restored to the stripped altar.
      And if there is a wake for Fr Jacques (I don’t know what French practice is), that could provide a context for the imam to speak without raising ritual issues for him or the parish.
      I don’t know that most local dioceses have much experience with this process, thank God.

      1. @Katherine Christensen:
        Yes, I have meanwhile looked at the Ceremonial of Bishops too, and studied what I needed to study.
        You are certainly right that many local dioceses have no experience with this — but others around the globe do — just think of Ruanda, for one. And there are others.

        You are also absolutely right that asking a devout Muslim to take part in a Catholic ritual may do the poor imam real harm. I was not thinking enough about his own faith commitments, but only about the powerful ( anti-ISIS) witness to peace between Msulim and Catholic communities in France this could be.

      2. @Teresa Berger:

        Seriously asking: what sort of harm do you think would come to an imam participating in a Catholic service? Do you mean that he would be spiritually harmed because of his own faith commitments? Or that he would be a target of physical violence for participating?

      3. @Jonathan Ziegler:
        For one, ISIS would love to slit the imam’s throat too, I assume — ISIS has killed far more Muslims than Christians to date, after all.
        But some more traditional imams in Muslim-dominant lands will probably also find participation in a Catholic worship service utterly unacceptable, and this might have ramifications for the imam’s own pastoral work.

      4. @Katherine Christensen:

        I hope that “welcoming to non-Christian neighbors” wouldn’t mean excluding the name of Jesus Christ from our prayer…doing so would be letting those who martyted this priest for exercising his Catholic priesthood “win” so to speak.

      5. @Jay Edward:
        Well if it’s a Christian prayer service for Christians (which non-Christians might attend), that’s one thing. But there is also inter-faith and inter-religious prayer, which might also take place in a Catholic Church, when it would be appropriate not to include the name of Jesus. This isn’t necessarily denying our Christian faith, just choosing not to affirm it in this particular context.
        awr

      6. @Anthony Ruff, OSB:

        (!)

        As I understand at interreligious gatherings, the different groups are not supposed to pray together, but rather each group does prayer in their own tradition. As I’m sure we don’t put any restrictions on others praying in their tradition, we should not restrict ourselves from praying as Christians do.

        I think it is a sign of weakness to put away our belief in Christ so as not to offend people. If we don’t respect ourselves, how are we to expect others to respect us?

      7. @Jay Edward:
        For the liturgy in question, namely a penitential rite after the desecration of a church, it would be a Catholic rite, to which other faith communities might be invited, and one would basically choose among the ritual options that exist in the ceremonial for bishops, so no, of course one wouldn’t refrain from invoking Jesus Christ, or the Holy Trinity, or Mary, or the Pope, or…

  4. I would hope that a priest somewhere has already offered the votive Mass of the Holy Cross for the intentions of Father John, or will offer it today. The preface is amazingly beautiful and insightful, as it contains a profound word play in Latin. Thank you Fathers for saying the votive.

  5. Bishop William F. Murphy has used the murder in St.-Etienne-du-Rouvray to condemn again the secularist tendencies of European states and our United States. For years, he has been repeating the views of George Weigel with regard to clerical influence in national affairs.
    Link to Bishop William F. Murphy’s statement of July 26, 2016:
    http://drvc.org/2016-press-releases/bishop-murphy-statement-on-terrorist-attack-at-church-of-saint-etienne-du-rouvray-france.html

  6. Mid-week Eucharist

    A single bell
    calls
    from the small
    church tower,
    a lost echo
    of a Tuesday morning
    terror
    where sacrifice
    stained the stone
    of a sanctuary floor,
    a shared Eucharist,
    sunlit,
    through an open door.

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