In the face of fear, French Catholics are being courageous, still going to Mass and recalling St. John Paul II’s words to not be afraid.
This morning, the bishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, expressed this following a Mass that Pope Francis celebrated at Casa Santa Marta in memory of a priest murdered by adherents of ISIS, in the small Church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Eighty pilgrims of the French diocese, together with Bishop Monsignor Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, attended today’s Mass for Fr. Jacques Hamel who suffered a martyr’s death on July 26, while he was celebrating Mass. In his church, two men armed with knives entered and took him, two nuns, and two of the faithful hostage. They subsequently killed Fr. Hamel by cutting his throat, and seriously wounded another of the hostages.
During this morning’s homily, which was delivered in Italian and translated into French, Pope Francis recalled that today marks the feast day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Speaking on this mystery, the Pontiff reflected how Fr. Hamel, like Christ, was obedient unto death.
Stressing that “to kill in the name of God is satanic,” the Pope also prayed that Father Hamel’s courageous example gives the faithful courage, too.
After the Mass, Bishop Lebrun met a group of journalists in the Holy See Press Office and gave a brief intervention in French. Also Fr. Hamel’s sister and two parishioners from the martyred priest’s church were present.
When asked by ZENIT if the French faithful, especially in his diocese, are fearful to go to church, or if priests are nervous to celebrate, the bishop replied, “Yes. There is fear. Absolutely.”
The French bishop recalled a meeting with the vicars of the diocese, saying they all told him that they receive calls from people who still wonder “if there is Mass, if you can go, if there is some risk.”
“But,” he continued, “there are more people now and that makes me very reflective on the words of Jesus that John Paul II often repeated: ‘Do not be afraid.'”
“I do not believe that Jesus said ‘It is stupid to be afraid,’ or ‘There is no reason to be afraid.’ No, he says, ‘Have the courage to not be afraid,'” Bishop Lebrun said.
The bishop reminded the journalists that Pope Francis himself has taught us this morning on martyrdom and has given the French faithful the advice to be courageous.
Bishop Lebrun concluded, saying: “So yes, I would say that psychologically, there is fear, but at the deepest level of the soul, there is more strength.”
on ZENIT’s Web page:
Pope Celebrates Mass in Fr. Hamel’s Memory: https://zenit.org/articles/pope-to-kill-in-the-name-of-god-is-satanic/