Priest who was killed by terrorists on track for beatification after Pope Francis calls him a martyr

Posted October 9, 2016

Pope Francis has greenlit a preliminary sainthood investigation into the Rev. Jacques Hamel, the priest who was killed on July 26 by Islamic terrorists during Mass at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, France.

The pontiff told reporters that witness testimony will be gathered to see if Hamel, 85, should be beatified — a process that is being sped along just months after Hamel's death; typically, a five-year waiting period is required.

While it's not normal to waive the time period, Catholic News Agency reported that it isn't entirely uncommon, as it was done for St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II. Pope Francis said that the process is being expedited in this case in light of the fact that witnesses might forget details or die, the Associated Press reported.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rouen officially launched the process after Pope Francis waived the five-year waiting period, with Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun announcing the effort on Oct. 2, according to CNA.

The move comes after Hamel's throat was slit in July in front of congregants before police killed the Islamic State-aligned militants responsible — a tragic event that sent shock waves throughout the world.

While sainthood is typically predicated upon two purported miracles being performed through the intercession of a saint after his or her death, those who die as martyrs can be beatified without a miracle, the AP explained.

But these people generally cannot be canonized until after a miracle is observed.

The announcement of the investigation into Hamel's potential sainthood came on the same day that the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray reopened; the church had been closed since his July 26 death.

Pope Francis called Hamel a martyr while celebrating a Mass in the priest's honor earlier this month, and labeled his killing "satanic."

"This man accepted his martyrdom next to the martyrdom of Christ, on the altar," the pontiff said. "He was beheaded on the Cross, as he was celebrating the sacrifice of Christ’s cross (the Mass)."

He continued, "He gave his life for us so as not to deny Jesus. He is a martyr and martyrs are beatified."

It should be noted that there's a difference between beatification and canonization. As for the former, the event typically unfolds at a local level at the request of a local bishop, while the latter happens on behalf of the church at large.

On the same hand, a beatification involves honoring the individual at public places closely associated with his or her ministry or life, while a canonization is an official decree from the Catholic Church more broadly, according to CNS.

As Deseret News previously reported, Hamel's death shocked the world due to its graphic nature inside of a Western church.

Tragically, these events are all too common in places like Africa, though the idea of extremists entering a church and killing a priest in the middle of a French Mass rocked many people across the globe.

"This attack, though not unlike many others happening daily, is different because it marks the first documented case of ISIS attacking a gathering of Christians during a worship service in a Western country," Open Doors USA CEO David Curry told Deseret News at the time.

He continued, "People are taking notice because, suddenly, they can picture this happening in their own churches."

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