Father Jacques Hamel, the assistant pastor of the St. Etienne Catholic parish in St. Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, was murdered today by Muslim terrorists who took hostages during the celebration of Mass. Two terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State barged into the church while worshippers attended the Mass. Among the hostages were two nuns. One of surviving hostages is being treated at a local hospital, hovering between life and death. During the Mass, one of the two assailants seized the 86-year-old priest and cut his throat near the altar.
 
Ultimately, the two Muslim terrorists were killed by special police forces who were called to the scene. French President Francois Hollande went to the scene of the crime to repudiate the terrorism and offer the condolences of the shocked French nation.
 
 
Father Jacques was born in 1930 in Darnétal, a town in Seine- Maritime. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1958. He celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination in 2008, according to the parish website.
 
Abbot Augustus Moanda-Phuati, the pastor of St. Etienne parish, described his colleague as a good priest and a “man of peace.” Abbot Augustus is a native of the Congo, and out of the country at the time of the attack. “In my absence, he was officiating a little at the church. It is brave for a priest of his age. Priests have the right to retire at age 75, but he still felt strong. He said “there are not enough priests” and because he could still serve, he preferred to stay and continue working,” said Abbot Augustus. To Liberation, a French daily, he said that he learned about the slaying when he turned on the television. He described Father Jacques as "a good priest who was always serving people practically all his life. We could not imagine that it could happen this way. Especially since the morning we get up to the Mass, in small groups (...), there were only five this morning." He added, “He was a man of peace.”
 
In various homages posted on Facebook, Father Jacques is described  "warm, simple and of modest living." His colleagues knew him to be popular among believers. In a letter he wrote this year to parishioners, Father Jacques wrote, “May we hear in those moments God's invitation to take care of this world to make, where we live, a warmer, more human, more fraternal (...) "
 
According to Victor Mbeindjock Nola, who was in charge of the parish two years ago, "he was very popular with the faithful. The Catholic community is very united in Saint-Etienne, where there are two parishes. In holiday season, it is a community of only 600 faithful but religious life is very busy."

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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