The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has reflected on the final moments of Fr Jacques Hamel’s life, in an address to priests in the Diocese of Birmingham.
During a conference today for the priests of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that he had recently visited the church where Fr Jacques Hamel was brutally murdered by Islamist terrorists in July.
The cardinal told the priests attending: “We are told that Fr Hamel died with these words on his lips: ‘Go away Satan.’ It is not clear what he meant. Journalists said it was directed at those who came at this throat with their knives. Or did those words point to a deeper struggle? I have pondered on these words as the utterance of a man of peace and a priest. His ‘Satan’ could have been the fear gripping his heart, or a despair that all was about to be lost. His ‘Satan’ may well have been anything that could have made him lose trust in Jesus at this hour of his death, the radical temptations urging him to abandon the very foundation on which he had built his whole life.”
The cardinal went on to say that priests should not stop fighting to keep their vocation “fresh.” He continued: “He (Fr Jacques Hamel) was, evidently, a man of peace, refusing a commission in the French Foreign Legion during his years of service because it would have meant giving orders to kill.
“He had built a life of daily peacefulness and his struggle may well have been in maintaining that stance, his radical decision of heart, of spirit, until the last moment of consciousness. The witness of his daily life as a priest, I suggest, is summed up in the manner of his death: on his knees, before the altar, the very position he had taken when he was ordained.
“Our struggles are different but we too have to fight, each day, to keep fresh the original call and inspiration which brought us to our knees at the moment of our ordination. We too want to bring that dedication to the moment of our death.”
The conference took place today at Egbaston stadium in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.