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Blood on the sanctuary

Paris (SE): “The world is at war,” Pope Francis said on his flight from Rome to Krakow en route to World Youth Day after hearing of the death of Father Jaques Hamel as he was celebrating Mass in the village of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, on July 26.

During the Mass, two men, later identified as Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, calling themselves representatives of the Islamic State, came onto the sanctuary and slit the throat of the 86-year-old priest, while forcing an 84-year-old to film the murder.

Sister Helene, who was attending the Mass, said Father Hamel’s last words were addressed to his executioners, when he said to them, “Stop, what are you doing?”

Both men were shot by police.

However, Pope Francis said that he does not believe that the blood on the sanctuary adds up to a religious war. He told journalists on the plane to Poland, “The word that is on everyone’s lips is security, but the real word is war. This holy priest died just as he was offering a prayer for peace. He is one person, but how many Christians, how many innocent people, how many children…?”

He then stressed, “It is war. We are not afraid to tell the truth, the world is at war because it has no peace.”

Pope Francis then stressed, “I would like to add just one more thing by way of clarification; when I speak of war, I mean real war, not religious war. I speak of a war of interests, over money, nature’s resources and the domination of peoples.”He added, “All religions seek peace. It is others who want war. Understand?”

The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said on the following day that his president would resonate with Pope Francis’ words. “The fact is the Islamic State has declared war against the rest of the world, but they don’t represent Islam.”

Earnest said that it is a fantasy to suggest that it represents anything religious in its fight against the world.

In declaring July 29 a day of national mourning in France for the sacrilege committed in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, the secretary general of the French Bishops’ Conference, Monsignor Oliver Ribadeau Dumas, said, “What happened in France has happened in other countries before. We see Christians laying down their lives in the interests of their faith… They die because they are objects of hate and this for a fact gives additional motivation to live the life of fraternity that we are called to.”

CNA reported Monsignor Dumas as saying, “A priest is a symbol of peace and fraternity, and he was an old priest, more than 50 years as a priest in France, so tonight we are sad and shocked.”

Speaking from Kraków, he said that World Youth Day offers a special chance for reflection. “We should see the horizon of peace, of joy, brotherhood and prayer. We are rooted in our faith and in Jesus Christ and we believe that evil and violence will not have the upper hand.”

He also pointed out that Christians do not have a monopoly on martyrdom, as many people throughout the world are killed for their faith, be they Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu or of some other faith.

Meanwhile, the French Council for the Muslim Religion urged Muslims to join in Masses for the slain priest on July 31, to show solidarity with the Christian community.

It also asked for talks to be given at the Friday mosque prayers on the topic of Islam’s respect for all religion.

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