"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20
In the two months since Rev. Jacques Hamel was brutally slain at the altar of his parish by an ISIS sympathizer, church attendance has increased in his town, a church leader has revealed.
As earlier reported, two Islamic extremists shouting "Allahu Akbar" slit the throat of 84-year-old Rev. Hamel and stabbed him in the chest before critically wounding another person during a terror attack on a Catholic church near the Normandy city of Rouen. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the two assailants - who were shot dead by the police - were "soldiers" retaliating against the United States-led coalition fighting the group in Iraq and Syria.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun, who oversees the small town, where Fr Hamel was killed, said fear had spread throughout France after the attack, according to Catholic News Agency. However, mass attendance has also risen since the elderly priest was murdered.
"There is fear [in France], without a doubt," he said after a meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday.
He added, "A week ago, I met with the vicars of the diocese and everyone told me that some people phoned asking if there was mass, if they could go, if there [was] a risk. At the same time, more people are at mass. On a psychological level, there is fear, but on a deep level in the soul, there is strength...I do not think Jesus said it is stupid to be afraid, or there is no reason to be afraid. No, Jesus said: Have the courage to be afraid."
In his homily delivered before about eighty people on Wednesday, Francis called the priest "blessed," the step previous to sainthood, asking the faithful to pray for his intercession, so that he "gives us the courage to say the truth: to kill in the name of God is satanic."
"This man accepted his martyrdom next to the martyrdom of Christ, on the altar," Francis said, according to Crux. "He was beheaded on the Cross, as he was celebrating the sacrifice of Christ's cross [the Mass]."
During a solemn funeral Mass held last month for the elderly priest, Lebrun shared the last words that the Rev. Hamel said to his murderers as he tried to push them away with his feet.
"Go away, Satan!" he commanded before the assailants slit his throat, calling to mind Jesus' words in Matthew 16:23: "Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'"
"Evil is a mystery. It reaches heights of horror that take us out of the human," Archbishop Lebrun said during the two-hour Mass. "Isn't that what you wanted to say, Jacques, with your last words, when you fell to the ground? After you were struck by the knife, you tried to push away your assailants with your feet and said, 'Go away, Satan.' You repeated it, 'Go away, Satan.'"
Lebrun later explained that when Hamel uttered the words "be gone, Satan" immediately before his death, he "had already received stab wounds, was already on the ground."
"Fr. Jacques could not think that these young people could be at the root of this evil. They are not the source of this evil," the archbishop said.