Hamel worked long past retirement to serve the Church, died while saying Mass.
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The video above tells the story of Father Jacques Hamel, assistant priest at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray parish in Rouen, France, who was martyred in his church while saying Mass on July 26, 2016. Eighty-six-year-old Hamel had served as a priest for 58 years, choosing to continue his ministry even after his formal retirement in 2005. Only three months after Hamel’s death, Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period and approved the opening of Hamel’s cause for canonization.
“I will work until my last breath,” Hamel had told a trusted friend before he died.
Dialogue and respect between religions was important to Hamel, who had served on a local interfaith committee. After his death, local imam Mohammed Karabila, the president of Normandy’s regional council of Muslims, spoke publicly about their friendship and his admiration for Hamel’s life of service. On the first Sunday after the murder, Muslims attended Mass in churches across France as a sign of solidarity with Catholics and respect for Hamel.
“We can hear God’s invitation to us to heal this world,” Hamel wrote in his last letter before his death, “to make the place in which we live a warmer and more humane place of togetherness.”
Within hours of Hamel’s death, public figures called on Pope Francis to elevate Father Hamel to sainthood, and #santosubito (“saint now”) trended on Twitter. On September 14, 2016, Pope Francis offered a Mass for Hamel’s soul at the Vatican, during which he called Hamel a martyr.
“This man accepted his martyrdom next to the martyrdom of Christ, on the altar,” Pope Francis said.
Hamel’s archdiocese of Rouen has begun the local investigation for his cause for canonization, and has distributed a prayer to request Father Jacques’s intercession:
Father Jacques Hamel, Grant us the favor of presenting our prayer to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit! You who consecrated your life to Him: May God help us to do His Will simply and faithfully each day. You who offered Him the bread and wine: May God help us to open our lives for His glory and the salvation of the world. You who unmasked Satan, the divisor: May God help us to repel his temptations, Receiving the spirit of love and forgiveness. You who died in the habits of prayer: May God help us to witness Jesus and His Gospel to the end. Present to God also this particular intention: (state your intention). Finally, present to God with insistence the petition of the diocese of Rouen for youths who consecrate their life to Him. Father Jacques Hamel, pray for us!