Moments before he was brutally slain at the altar of his parish by an ISIS sympathizer, the Rev. Jacques Hamel cried out the heartbreaking words, "Go away, Satan!".
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.
According to Catholic Online, the archbishop of Rouen led thousands in a solemn funeral Mass earlier this week for the elderly priest, and 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 Dominique 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 praised Hamel for recognizing the root of the horrific murder as pure evil and the work of the devil himself.
With those words, Lebrun said, "You expressed ... your faith in the goodness of humans and that the devil put his claws in."
The New York Times notes that Father Hamel had at least two sisters, one who lives nearby and another farther north in France. Roselyne Hamel, one of his sisters, told the crowd, "Let's learn to live together, let's be workers for peace."
Lebrun, celebrating the Mass, extended thanks to Catholics attending the service but also to "believers of other religious faiths, in particular the Jewish community and the Muslim community, very affected and already decided to unite for: 'Never again.'"
According to Reuters, Hamel's murder by French citizens was the first Islamist attack on a church in western Europe. Just 12 days earlier, a Tunisian who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State drove his truck through a crowd of Bastille Day revelers in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 84.
Islamist militants have killed more than 200 people in France since January 2015.