Worshippers and dignitaries gathered at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray to mark the first anniversary of the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel at the hands of Islamist extremists.
Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, celebrated the anniversary Mass at the church where the priest was slain was two 19-year-old Muslim terrorists.
“Though he is dead, Fr Jacques Hamel is still alive,” the archbishop said. “Hate has not triumphed, and it will never triumph.”
The archbishop also thanked politicians, including French president Emmanuel Macron, for attending the Mass and welcomed representatives from the local Muslim community.
“In this church Father Hamel spoke, he spoke the language of love. In this church Father Hamel was silenced, he speaks no more,” Archbishop Lebrun said in his homily. “Today Father Hamel speaks still. His life and his death speak after his death.”
Speaking outside the church, Joaquin Moïse, the town’s mayor, said the local population had been “thrown into the whirl of emotions” by the murder.
“The initial disbelief was followed by fear, then mingled with incomprehension, sorrow, disgust. In an act of horror, the life of Jacques Hamel was taken away.”
Meanwhile, president Macron credited Archbishop Lebrun and mayor Moïse of showing an example of peace.
“By murdering Father Hamel at the foot of his altar, the two terrorists undoubtedly believed they were sowing the thirst for vengeance and retaliation among French Catholics,” the president said. “They have failed.”
Describing Fr Hamel as a “martyr”, president Macron said the French state would protect religious freedom and places of worship.
“The Republic does not have to fight religion, nor to substitute itself for it,” he said.