France

Pope holds mass for slain French priest

Pope Francis waves in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on 14 August, 2016.
Pope Francis waves in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on 14 August, 2016. Reuters/Max Rossi

Pope Francis on Wednesday denounced killing in God's name as "satanic" as he held a mass to honour Jacques Hamel, the French priest whose throat was slit by jihadists in July.

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In an address attended by around 80 pilgrims from the northern French diocese of Rouen where the attack took place, the pope said "killing in God's name is satanic". He called Hamel a "martyr" and described him as a "good, gentle man" who had been killed "like a criminal".

In his sermon, which was delivered in Italian but translated into French for the visitors, the pope said, "Today the Church has more Christian martyrs than in the first centuries."

He went on to say, "How good it would be if all religious confessions declared that killing in the name of God was satanic."

The pope's early service on Wednesday was held in the chapel at St Martha's, the boarding house where Francis stays. A photo of the late priest was set upon the altar.

Hamel, 85, was killed on 26 July while presiding over an early morning mass for a handful of parishioners in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Christians were currently suffering persecution through being "imprisoned, tortured and killed because they refuse to deny Jesus," the pope said. "This cruelty which demands apostasy is, let us say it, satanic." Apostasy is the renunciation of one's religious beliefs.

Earlier this month, Francis met with French President Francois Hollande over the attack. On 24 September he will meet relatives of the 86 people killed in a jihadist truck attack in the Riviera resort of Nice on 14 July.

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