ISIS Killed French Priest's Church Sees More Church Attendance Since Murder, Archbishop Says

Pallbearers carry the coffin of slain French parish priest Father Jacques Hamel after a funeral ceremony at the Cathedral in Rouen, France, August 2, 2016. Father Jacques Hamel was killed last week in an attack on a church at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen that was carried out by assailants linked to Islamic State. |

More people are now attending Mass despite the fear that persists after an 84-year-old Catholic priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was killed in Normandy, France, allegedly by the Islamic State terror group, said the archbishop of the priest's diocese.

"There is fear, without a doubt," Monsignor Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, said, according to Rome Reports.

Lebrun continued, "A week ago, I met with the vicars of the diocese and everyone told me that some people phoned asking if there was Mass, if they could go, if there's a risk. At the same time, more people are at Mass."

The archbishop explained that while there is fear "on a psychological level," there is also strength "on a deep level in the soul."

Pope Francis celebrated a Mass in the Vatican Wednesday in honor of Fr. Hamel, who was beheaded in his parish while celebrating Mass on July 26.

Two men armed with knives stormed the church and held the priest and several others, including two nuns, hostage before killing Fr. Hamel. Islamic State, which operates from Iraq and Syria and is also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh, claimed responsibility for the attack by releasing a video purporting to show the two teenagers pledging their allegiance to the jihadists. The two were killed by the police after the attack.

"Today there are Christians murdered, tortured, imprisoned, slaughtered because they do not deny Jesus Christ," Francis said during the Mass, adding that Hamel is a martyr, and insisting that all such men of God who have been killed for their faith have been "beatified," or declared to be in Heaven.

The breviary of Fr. Jacques Hamel, opened to the last page he read before being killed, will be kept in Rome at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew, where the relics of other Christians who were also killed in hatred of the faith are preserved.

Hamel's diocese has also begun preparations for the process of beatification.

"Fr. Jacques was a humble, gentle man," Archbishop Lebrun said. "There was no talk of him. I looked where reports of priests are kept and his report is empty. There is nothing. Why? Because he did what he had to do. There has never been a single complaint, nor anything very remarkable. He was a quiet man who did his duty."

Fr. Hamel's sister, Roselyn Hamel, said, "Our Muslim brothers pray to a God that is our God," according to the Reports. "He is a God of love, tolerance, sharing. It is clear that these young people who killed my brother have killed in the name of a God who kills and that is not the God of Islam. It is not the same God the Christians have."

Lebrun led a funeral mass for the priest last month, and said at the time that Hamel's last words as he tried to push away his attackers were "Go away, Satan." "Evil is a mystery. It reaches heights of horror that take us out of the human." Lebrun added.

Hamel's church had donated land to Muslims to build a mosque, a senior Catholic cleric said days after the priest was murdered. "Church authorities facilitated the giving of land beside his church to local Muslims to build a mosque, and they were given use of the parish hall and other facilities during Ramadan," Father Mark Ephrem Nolan, prior of the Benedictine Monastery of the Holy Cross near Rostrevor, said, referring to the Church of the Gambetta, where Hamel served.

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