The church in France where Father Jacques Hamel had been murdered by teenage jihadists two months ago, reopened on Sunday. The church is situated in the small town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen.
A special penitential mass to pay tribute to the 85-year-old priest was held in the same church where Father Hamel had his throat slit at the foot of the altar on July 26 in an attack by the Islamic State (ISIS).
The atrocity took place within days of the Bastille Day attack that claimed 86 lives in Nice.
Sunday’s solemn rite was designed to erase the desecration of the church at the hands of jihadists Adel Kermiche, a local man, and Abdel-Malik Petitjean.
Both jihadists were shot dead by police following a siege.
“The rite consists of ‘cleansing’ the church through the sprinkling of holy water,” Archbishop of Rouen Dominique Lebrun explained..
Vatican sources say Pope Francis might be prepared to waive the usual waiting period before launching a process of beatification for Father Hamel. Normally the Vatican observes a five-year “cooling off” period after the death of a candidate for sainthood.
Worshippers broke out in applause when Lebrun announced the news during the mass.
The jihadist attack, the first of its kind on a Christian church in Europe, stunned France’s religious communities. France has the continent’s largest Muslim population.