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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mass for Father Jacques Hamel

At 7:00am this morning, in the chapel at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis celebrated Mass as a sign of closeness to the family and friends of Father Jacques Hamel and to the community of Rouen (France).

A group of 80 pilgrims from the Diocese of Rouen, together with their bishop, His Excellency, Dominique Lebrun, were present for the Mass in memory of the priest who was killed on 26 July of this year in the church of Saint-√Čtienne-du-Royvray.

Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the Mass celebrated in memory
of Father Jacques Hamel

In the Cross of Jesus - today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Cross of Jesus Christ - we see fully the mystery of the cross of Christ, the mystery of self-giving and of closeness to us.  He, being in the form of God - says Paul - did not consider it a privilege to be like God, but emptied himself, assuming the condition of a slave, taking on human likeness.  Being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8).  This is the mystery of Christ.  This is the mystery of martyrdom for the salvation of all mankind.  Jesus Christ was the first martyr, the first to give his life for us.  In this mystery, the entire history of Christian martyrdom began, and it has continued from the days of the earliest centuries of Christianity to the present day.

The first Christians made their confession about Jesus Christ by paying with their own lives.  To the first Christians, another option was proposed - apostasy: You say that our god is the true one, and not your god.  Make a sacrifice to our god and to our gods.  And when they would not do this, when they refused apostasy, they were killed.  This history has been repeated over and over again until today; and today in the Church there are more Christian martyrs than there were during the early years of Christianity.  Today, Christians are assassinated, tortured, imprisoned, slaughtered because they will not renounce Jesus Christ.  In this history, we come to our Father Jacques: he is part of the series of martyrs.  Christians who suffer today - whether in prison, whether through death or through torture - for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ, especially demonstrate the cruelty of this persecution.  And this cruelty which we call apostasy - let us say the word - is satanic.  How good it would be if all religious confessions were to say together: Killing in the name of God is satanic.

Father Jacques Hamel was slain on the cross, even as he celebrated the sacrifice of the cross of Christ.  A good man, meek, fraternal, one who was always trying to promote peace, was assassinated as though he were a criminal.  This is the thread of satanic persecution, but there is one thing in this man who accepted his martyrdom there, one thing he has in common with the martyrdom of Christ: at the altar.  There is one thing that makes me think a lot: in the midst of the difficult moment that he experienced, in the midst of the tragedy that he saw coming, a humble man, a good man, a man who was fraternal, did not lose the clarity of being able to accuse, of saying clearly the name of his assassin.  He said clearly: Go away Satan!  He gave his life for us, he give his life instead of denying Jesus.  He give his life in the same sacrifice as Jesus did, at the altar and there he accused the author of persecution: Go away Satan!

And this example of courage, but also the martyrdom of his own life, to empty himself in order to help others, to create fraternity with others, helps all of us to fearlessly continue on our way.  May he, from heaven - for we must pray to him, he is a martyr!, he is a martyr among the blesseds, we must pray to him - gain for us the gifts of meekness, fraternity, peace and the courage to speak the truth: Killing in the name of God is satanic.

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