Hamel, who was born in 1930, was “a good priest…discrete. He was quiet, didn’t like attention,” said Father John Hogan, OCDS, a Secular Discalced Carmelite priest.
“He assumed his duties to the end. He was well-liked. It seems he was a simple, faithful priest, quietly serving God and his people,” the priest tweeted.
A woman who works at a local beauty parlour, Eulalie Garcia, said she had known the priest since her childhood.
“My family has lived here for 35 years and we have always known him,” she said, according to the BBC..
“He was someone who was treasured by the community. He was very discreet and didn’t like to draw attention to himself.”
President Hollande has visited the scene and described the violence as a “vile terrorist attack” perpetrated by attackers who claimed to be from Islamic State (Isis). Prime minister Manuel Valls expressed “horror at [the] barbaric attack on [the] church.”
From the Vatican:
Pope Francis is horrified and shocked by an attack in a church in Rouen, in northern France, where a priest was slain and another hostage was seriously wounded.
A statement released by Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office said: “we are particularly shocked because this horrible violence took place in a Church, in which God’s love is announced, with the barbarous killing of a priest and the involvement of the faithful”.
Fr Lombardi also said the Pope shares the pain and the horror caused by this absurd violence and expresses firm condemnation of every form of hatred and prays for the victims.
Two attackers entered the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray during Mass on Tuesday morning, taking the elderly priest and four other people hostage before being shot dead by French police.
There were no immediate details on the identity or motives of the two assailants but the investigation was handed to the anti-terrorist unit of the Paris prosecutor’s office.
In his statement Fr Lombardi commented on the fact that the terrible news is unfortunately the latest in a series of violent attacks in the past days which have created immense pain and preoccupation.
Father Lombardi said the Pope is close to the Church in France, to the Archdiocese of Rouen, to the local community and to the French people.
UPDATE, via The New York Times:
Like many people who enjoy their work, the Rev.Jacques Hamel did not want to stop. At 85, he was well past retirement age, but he kept in shape and kept on going — baptizing infants, celebrating Mass and tending to parishioners in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, the working-class town in Normandy where he had spent much of his life.“He could have retired at 75 years old, but seeing how few priests were around he decided to stay and work, to continue to be of service to people, up until it all ended, tragically,” the Rev. Auguste Moanda-Phuati, the parish priest of the Église St.-Étienne, where Father Hamel worked as an auxiliary priest, said in a phone interview. “He was loved by all. He was a little like a grandfather. We were happy when he was around and worried when we hadn’t seen him in a while.”Father Hamel was celebrating Mass on Tuesday morning when two men with knives entered the small church and slit his throat, an attack that horrified people across France and the world. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the two assailants — who were shot dead by the police — were “soldiers” retaliating against the United States-led coalition fighting the group in Iraq and Syria.
St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a working-class suburb of the cathedral city of Rouen, filled with low brick buildings, was plunged into grief on Tuesday.