Martyred Father Jacques Hamel: a model of simplicity and authenticity

Sixth anniversary of the murder of French priest at the hand of jihadists.

“THE MARTYRDOM OF FATHER JACQUES HAMEL HAS BEEN PROVEN,” says Father Paul Vigouroux, postulator for the priest’s cause of beatification, speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), on the sixth anniversary of his murder. Fathter Vigouroux explains that “this was a violent and premeditated death, caused by hatred for the Christian faith. The French police have proven this to be the case, and it has been included in his file.”

Father Jacques Hamel was murdered by two jihadists in his parish church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, in Normandy, France, July 26, 2016, while celebrating Mass.

Six years after the crime, the Vatican is analyzing the cause for his beatification, while the Church of Saint Stephen, in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, has become a place of pilgrimage. “The faithful flock to the church or to Father Hamel’s grave, in groups or by themselves,” Father Paul Vigouroux, a priest of the Diocese of Rouen, tells ACN. “This devotion speaks also to the appeal, to modern man, of the personality of a simple person who loved his daily life.”

Father Jacques Hamel

Several miracles and cures have already been attributed to the martyred priest, explains the postulator. “One example is a person who claims to have been healed after placing his paralyzed hands on Father Hamel’s grave. We have the paperwork from his doctor. There are definitely supernatural elements that have encouraged us to keep up our work.”

Father Hamel was stabbed several times before he died. Following the crime, the diocese began its investigation, gathering documents and testimonies to obtain the facts. Once this stage of the work was complete the dossier was sent to Rome, which has published a decree saying that due process was followed, and that the case is being studied. “The Church likes to take its time,” says Father Vigouroux.

During a Mass said for the French priest, celebrated by the Pope on September 14, 2016, the Pontiff said “today in the Church there are more Christian martyrs than there were in the early days. Today Christians are murdered, tortured, imprisoned, and slaughtered, because they refuse to deny Jesus Christ. In this history, we come to our Father Jacques: he is part of this chain of martyrs.”

Jacques Hamel was born on November 30, 1930, in Darnétal, in the industrial outskirts of Rouen, Normandy. He had been a priest for 58 years when he was murdered. He spent his life in service of others, celebrating weddings, baptisms and accompanying the sick. He was active in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, including with the Muslim and Jewish communities, whom he visited frequently.

The postulator of his cause explains that one of the main messages of Father Hamel’s life is simplicity and authenticity. “He did not try to be the center of attention, nor did he wish to be famous.” However, he would go on to become the first priest to be martyred by Muslim extremists in Western Europe in the XXI century.

—Glaisys Carbonell