The pope continues to make declarations calling for a universal condemnation of religiously motivated violence
Exactly one year ago, French priest Jacques Hamel was killed by Islamist terrorists while he was celebrating Mass at Saint-Etienne du Rouvray, in Rouen, France.
His death gave Pope Francis one more occasion to condemn violence allegedly committed in the name of God.
The same day Father Hamel died, July 26, 2016, Pope Francis sent the archbishop of Rouen a message saying he was “shaken” by the act of violence. He shared in the sorrow and horror “caused by that absurd violence,” condemning “any form of hatred.”
Peter’s Successor also called the French president—at that time, François Hollande—on the phone that day, to assure him of his support, and that of all Catholics.
According to informal reports gathered thereafter, this gesture was highly appreciated at the French capital, so much so that the president of the Republic went to Rome on the following August 17, to be received at the Vatican by the pope. During this brief trip, François Hollande spent a few minutes in recollection in the chapel dedicated to martyrs and victims of terrorism at the church of Saint Louis of the French.
Martyr. That is the word that the Pope used during the funeral Mass for Father Hamel, celebrated at his Santa Marta residence, on September 14, Feast of the Holy Cross, in the presence of the priest’s sister and of the archbishop of Rouen. Then, the Pontiff repeated Father Hamel’s last words—“Begone, Satan”— and added that “murdering in the name of God is satanic!”
The following day, September 15, Father Hamel’s breviary was placed in the Roman church dedicated to contemporary martyrs, Saint Bartholomew on the Island. The following October 2, the Pope dispensed the Archdiocese of Rouen from the five-year waiting period required before opening a process of beatification.
An appeal to all religious leaders
At the beginning of the year 2017, on January 9, during his traditional address to the diplomatic corps, the Holy Father reiterated once more that religious terrorism is “homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death.” He appealed “to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”
During an April 22 ceremony in memory of the “new martyrs,” the pope was more direct, stating that the devil “stirs up persecution” against Christians because they have been saved by Christ.
At the same time, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, visited Egypt on February 22-23 to attend a seminar at the Al-Azhar Islamic University in Cairo. This was a first step towards the re-establishment of relations between the Holy See and Al-Azhar, which was suspended by Al-Azhar in 2011.
The meeting bore fruit: in April, the Holy See announced that the pope would go to Egypt for a quick two-day journey. On April 28, for the first time, the head of the Catholic Church visited Al-Azhar University. Here again, after praising the Grand Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the pope delivered a discourse during which he vigorously reaffirmed his appeal to condemn violence carried out in the name of God.
Idolatrous falsifications of God
“Let us repeat a strong and clear ‘no’ to every form of violence” in the name of faith, the Holy Father emphasized before the religious dignitaries, many of whom were Muslims. These are “idolatrous falsifications” of God, he said, and added, “let us declare the holiness of all human life.”
In Egypt, this uncompromising papal discourse has had positive repercussions, according to an analysis by Vatican Insider on July 10. The director of the Library of Alexandria stated that the discourse should be taught in public schools in Egypt. And for the first time, an imam who preaches on television has since been put on trial for declaring that Christians are infidels.
During his June 28 general audience, Pope Francis followed this line of thought even further, as he publicly rejected any use of the word “martyr” for suicide bombers. This idea, he underlined, “is repugnant to Christians.” AP