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Pope: Murdered priest’s witness is an antidote to violence

Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 01/26/24

In a letter Pope Francis paid tribute to the French Father Jacques Hamel, murdered in his parish in 2016 by Islamist terrorists.

The Pope paid tribute to Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest murdered in 2016 in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray (Normandy), in a message read out at the Jacques Hamel Award ceremony in Lourdes on January 25, 2024.

“Seven years ago, an elderly, kind, gentle, fraternal and peaceful priest, Father Jacques Hamel, in the face of savage, blind violence unleashed in the name of God, gave a beautiful testimony of Christ,” the Pope wrote in his message. “It became clear that this irreplaceable testimony needed to be widely disseminated and known, in order to serve as an antidote to the excesses of violence, intolerance, hatred and rejection of others, which our societies are unfortunately increasingly witnessing.”

As every year since 2017, the Jacques Hamel Prize, which rewards journalistic work highlighting initiatives in favor of peace and interreligious dialogue, was presented by Roseline Hamel, the sister of the priest murdered in his church by two Islamist terrorists.

This year the award winner was Canadian journalist Sarah-Christine Bourihane, for her article “Captive et libre” (“Captive and free”), published in the Catholic magazine Le Verbe. The text traced the journey of a nun in Cameroon who was taken hostage by Boko Haram in 2014.

Journalists must help in developing interreligious dialogue

In front of more than 200 Catholic journalists and communicators gathered in Lourdes for the “Saint François de Sales Meeting,” the apostolic nuncio to France, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, read Pope Francis’ message, recalling the origin of this Prize and the importance of journalists’ work. 

“This prize […] is an excellent way of encouraging, supporting and rewarding those who work to build a more fraternal world, while respecting everyone’s convictions,” the Pope wrote. “The information professions are at the forefront of this process, helping to shape and educate the consciences of the younger generation in particular.” 

The Pontiff called people to beware of the “often erroneous information” that circulates “sometimes voluntarily” to “pit one against the other.”

When such false information reaches people who have lost their sense of critical discernment, it can foster the “phenomena of radicalization,” the Pope warned. “That’s why truth is an essential requirement for the journalistic work in the service of interreligious dialogue,” he insists.

Pope Francis has met Roseline Hamel three times since the tragic death of her brother at the age of 85. Last December, the Frenchwoman came to the Vatican, where she was able to speak with the Argentinian Pontiff for around 15 minutes. She gave him a copy of one of her brother’s homilies.

“The Pope had a benevolent gaze and a soothing smile,” Roseline told I.MEDIA.

In 2019, the diocesan investigation for the beatification of Father Jacques Hamel was completed, and the dossier was sent to Rome to be studied by the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.

At the Vatican, between 2,000 and 3,000 causes of canonization are currently under study.

FranceFrancis de SalesPope Francis
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