People hold a banner with a picture of French Fr. Jacques Hamel after a July 27, 2016, Mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The banner reads, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” On March 9, a French court sentenced four men in connection with the priest’s murder. CNS photo/Benoit Tessier, Reuters

Four sentenced in 2016 killing of French priest

  • March 17, 2022

A Paris court sentenced four men in connection with the 2016 killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel, giving them sentences ranging from eight years to life in prison.

The harshest sentence was applied to Rachid Kassim, a recruiter for the Islamic State group, who was not present at the trial.

Fr. Hamel was killed July 26, 2016, when two men stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen while he celebrated Mass. After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Fr. Hamel’s throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending the hostage situation.

The four men on trial accompanied the two killers. During the trial, Jean-Philippe Steven Jean-Louis, Farid Khelil and Yassine Sebaihia asked for forgiveness, but they were found guilty of criminal association with terrorists.

The Associated Press reported that Kassim, who had already been sentenced to life in absentia in 2019 for having ordered a failed attack in Paris, is thought to have been killed in a 2017 drone strike in Iraq.

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen welcomed the sentencing as “a sure step on the way to the truth,” but said he had to digest all he had heard during the trial, because “to pervert the relationship to God to the point of killing in His name has shaken me and questioned me deeply.”

“Justice is served. It has discerned the good from the bad as much as possible, it has judged and had to condemn for the good of the society, for the good of the men present in the box,” the archbishop said in a statement.

A sainthood cause for Fr. Hamel was opened in 2017.

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