Probe into Fr. Jacques Hamel’s murder shows attackers’ links to ISIS

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jul 7, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

An investigation into the murder of French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel documents messages exchanged between the attackers and a senior ISIS operative based in Syria.

Nearly five years after Fr. Hamel was killed on July 26, 2016, while offering Mass, the investigation gives details into the week leading up to the attack, when two armed men stormed Hamel’s parish in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, northern France.

The French weekly La Vie published documents on July 6 that it said came from information from the French intelligence agency, the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI).

The documents include transcripts of conversations on the encrypted chat application Telegram between Hamel’s attackers and Rachid Kassim, an Islamic State leader responsible for recruiting French-speaking militants.

From Syria, Kassim instructed Abdel-Malik Petitjean, one of the two terrorists, on how to conduct the attack.

“You take a knife, you go to a church, you make carnage, even slash two or three heads, and there it is done,” Kassim told him seven days before the attack.

Both of the attackers were shot dead by police after taking hostages and slitting Fr. Hamel’s throat. Kassim was later targeted in a U.S. drone strike in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017. La Vie said that the strike was requested by French security services, who believed he posed a threat to the country’s security.

The French archdiocese of Rouen officially began an inquiry into the beatification of Fr. Hamel in 2016 after the pope waived the traditional five-year waiting period.

At a Mass offered in memory of the priest shortly after his death in 2016, Pope Francis called Fr. Hamel a martyr and said that “killing in the name of God is satanic.”

“Fr. Jacques Hamel had his throat cut on the Cross, precisely while he was celebrating the sacrifice of the Cross of Christ. This good, meek man of brotherhood, who was always trying to make peace, was assassinated as if he were a criminal. This is the satanic thread of persecution,” Pope Francis said.

He added that “this good man, this man who strove for brotherhood, did not lose his clarity of thought and clearly said the name of the murderer, he said it very clearly: ‘Be gone, Satan.’”

“He gave his life for us, he gave his life so as not to deny Jesus. He gave his life in the same sacrifice of Jesus on the altar, and from there he accused the author of persecution: ‘Be gone, Satan.’”

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