Paris, France, Aug 9, 2021 / 05:40 am
France’s Interior Minister announced on Monday that a Catholic priest has been murdered in western France.
Gérald Darmanin wrote on his Twitter account on Aug. 9 that he was traveling to the Vendée department of France following the killing.
“All my support to the Catholics of our country after the dramatic murder of a priest in Vendée. I am going to the scene,” he said.
He did not offer any further information about the incident.
The Diocese of Luçon, which comprises the department of Vendée, named the murdered priest as Fr. Olivier Maire, provincial superior of the Montfort Missionaries (the Company of Mary).
On its Twitter account, it wrote that Bishop François Jacolin of Luçon and the Diocese of Luçon “express their deep sorrow and sadness” following the news of the murder.
“Bishop Jacolin and the Diocese of Luçon share the immense sorrow of his family and the entire Montfortian family,” it said.
Un juste est mort. Hommage au père #OlivierMaire qui aurait sans doute détesté que son assassinat nourrisse la polémique. Condoléances à tous ceux qui l’ont aimé. Condamnation totale du criminel qui a porté la main sur l’homme qui lui offrait son hospitalité. #Vendee pic.twitter.com/96cn7wAcjd
— Olivier Faure (@faureolivier) August 9, 2021
France Info reported that the suspect in the murder in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, a commune in the Vendée department, was already under investigation in relation to the fire at Nantes Cathedral in July 2020.
Reuters reported that the suspect had handed himself in to police.
French media said that the 60-year-old priest had welcomed the 40-year-old suspect, identified by media as Emmanuel Abayisenga, into the community in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre following the fire.
The incident immediately sparked a political row, with Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally, an anti-immigration party, criticizing the authorities for failing to deport the suspect, identified on social media as a man of Rwandan origin.
“In France, one can be an illegal immigrant, set fire to the cathedral in Nantes, never be deported, and then reoffend by murdering a priest,” she wrote on Twitter.
Darmanin rejected the criticism.
“Rather than expressing her compassion for the Catholics who welcomed this murderer, Ms. Le Pen polemicizes without knowing the facts: this foreigner could not be deported despite his deportation order as long as his judicial control had not been lifted,” he responded.
Le Pen is preparing to contest the French presidential election against the incumbent Emmanuel Macron in April 2022.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, the former prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, responded to the news by invoking the intercession of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, founder of the Company of Mary, and St. John Paul II, pope from 1978 to 2005.
“St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort and St. John Paul II, stay with us, we implore you,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Fr. Hugues de Woillemont, secretary general of the French bishops’ conference, expressed “pain and incomprehension” at the killing.
In a homily preached in October 2020, Fr. Maire spoke of the importance of serving those on the “periphery,” citing Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Fratelli tutti.
“Let us dare to sit down for a time of fraternal sharing, let us dare to sit down with the poorest, the excluded, and the rejects of humanity,” he said.
This is a developing story.
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