Pope Francis has invoked a rarely-used exemption and waived the five-year waiting period before a cause for beatification can be initiated in the case of Father Jacques Hamel.
He is the French priest who was decapitated while celebrating Mass in his quiet church in Rouen this summer.
Catholic News Agency reported Sunday that the Diocese of Rouen officially began an inquiry into the beatification of the priest after receiving a note from Pope Francis waiving the traditional five-year waiting period.
Rouen’s Archbishop Dominique Lebrun made the announcement after celebrating a Mass Oct. 2 to re-open the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Fr. Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State while saying Mass in July.
The five-year waiting period is rarely abrogated, but there have been two notable exceptions in recent years: St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II.
According to an Oct. 2 statement released by the French Bishops Conference, Archbishop Lebrun was informed by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints that Pope Francis “has dispensed of five year waiting period usually required before starting the official investigation of the beatification.”
Archbishop Lebrun held a special Mass Sunday that began with a procession from the parish rectory to the front doors of the church, which were re-opened after he offered some brief comments. CNA reported:
The liturgy included the reading of scripture, special prayers and Mass, all of which were focused on themes of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. The specific rite used for the Mass was the one prayed in cases of desecration and had been adapted for the occasion.
The news agency noted that Pope Francis, during a Sept. 14 Mass at the Vatican in memory of Father Hamel, expressed his confidence that the priest was a martyr.
Archbishop Lebrun, who was Fr. Hamel’s bishop, asked the Pope if he would sign a photograph of the murdered priest for them to take to the three religious sisters who witnessed Fr. Hamel’s murder, but were unable to travel to Rome for the Mass.
The archbishop was surprised when Pope Francis told him to put the photo on the altar before Mass, though. “This struck me,” he said.
“After he greeted everyone, he was signing the photo and told me: you can put this photo in the church because he (Fr. Hamel) is blessed now; and if someone tells you that you have no right, you tell them that the Pope has given you permission,” Archbishop Lebrun related at a news conference.