The French priest who cried “Satan, get out!” moments before an Islamic terrorist cut his throat appears to be on the road to sainthood, according to remarks made by Pope Francis on Wednesday.
Speaking during a morning Mass in memory of Rev. Jacques Hamel, Francis called the 85-year-old priest’s final act an “example of courage” and termed his murder “martyrdom.”
“He accepted his martyrdom there on the altar,” Francis said. “He gave his life for us so as not to deny Jesus . . . He is a martyr and martyrs are beatified.”
Beatification in Catholicism means a person has entered Heaven and has the power to intercede on behalf of those who pray to them. It is the first step toward becoming a saint. Once a person is beatified, they are typically given the title “Blessed” and honored with a feast day.
Shortly after Hamel’s death, calls for his sainthood began in earnest, with the hashtag #santosubito, meaning “saint now,” even trending on Twitter for a time. But Wednesday’s declaration by the Pope was the first concrete step toward that end.
Hamel was murdered July 26 after a pair of ISIS-inspired attackers burst into his Rouen-area church. The killers took hostages, wounded one person severely and slit Hamel’s throat. After emerging from the church -- using nuns as human shields -- the terrorists were killed by police.
Hamel's relatives, 80 members of his parish and the Rouen bishop attended the intimate Mass in Francis' hotel chapel. In his homily, Francis lamented the persecution of Christians and denounced Hamel's slaying as the “satanic thread of persecution.”
Francis said all people of faith should pray to Hamel for peace “and also the courage to tell the truth: killing in the name of God is satanic.”
Rouen Bishop Dominique Lebrun was asked by reporters afterward about the implications of the pope terming Islamic extremist attacks as “satanic.” He replied: “The assassins accepted the influence of the devil.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.