ROME—Pope Francis on Wednesday will celebrate a Mass in honor of Father Jacques Hamel in the Vatican. The French priest was murdered by two Islamic terrorists in late July as he himself was saying Mass for a small community.
The celebration will be broadcast live at 7 a.m. Rome time (1 a.m. ET) through the Vatican’s Television Center, the Vatican’s spokesman Greg Burke said.
On July 26, two men armed with knives broke into a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, and held the 86-year-old priest and several others — including two nuns – hostage for 40 minutes, killing the priest before being killed by the police.
The French president said the attack was carried out by terrorists in the name of ISIS.
Before slitting his throat, the perpetrators forced Hamel to kneel down. They said a prayer in Arabic, and killed him with a knife in his church, in the small city of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in rural Normandy.
Soon after the news broke, the pontiff condemned the attack as “absurd violence.”
A day later, as he was on his way to Poland to participate in a youth gathering, Francis told journalists travelling with him: “This holy priest who died in the very moment he was offering a prayer for the whole Church, is [only] one, but there are so many Christians, so many innocents, so many children … let’s think about Nigeria … ‘But it’s Africa’ … But it’s war!”
“Let’s not be afraid to say the truth. The world is at war, because it’s lost its peace!”
Francis will celebrate Wednesday’s Mass in the Santa Marta, the residence on Vatican grounds where he’s been living since his election in 2013.
Among those in attendance will be a group of 80 pilgrims from Hamel’s diocese, Rouen, who’re travelling to Rome with their archbishop, Dominique Lebrun.
The pope has been celebrating morning Mass in this chapel since the beginning of his pontificate. Although deemed private, these liturgies always include a small group of faithful, either from the diocese of Rome, couples celebrating their 50 the wedding anniversary or priests marking a similar date.
Portions of the pope’s homilies are made available daily by Vatican Radio except during the summer, when the Masses are even more restricted to the public.
After the murder of Hamel, requests for the priest to be declared a martyr soon began circulating.
Roberto Maroni, the president of the Italian Lombard region, said on Twitter that “Father Jacques is a martyr of faith” and requested that the pope “immediately proclaim him St. Jacques.”
Shortly after the appeal, the hashtag #santosubito, which translates as “saint immediately,” began trending on the social network.
Hamel’s bishop is among those who believe the slain priest was killed in odium fidei, a Latin phrase which means in hatred of the faith.
“It is not for me yet to declare Fr. Jacques ‘martyr’. But how do we not recognize the fecundity of the sacrifice he has lived, in union with the sacrifice of Jesus which he faithfully celebrated in the Eucharist?,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said at Hamel’s funeral.
The canonization process is normally a lengthy one, involving two miracles attributed to the person’s intercession, but in the case of a martyr only one miracle is needed after beatification. There must first be a declaration by the Vatican that the person indeed died for the faith.