FR Jacques Hamel sacrifice was perfectly united to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that he was celebrating at the altar when he was killed, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.
The priest was murdered in northern France, after being taken hostage with a handful of other faithful during a weekday morning Mass on July 26.
Archbishop Coleridge said beyond the horror of it, there was a peculiar poignancy about the murder of 85-year-old Fr Jacques Hamel in Normandy.
“The old priest was filling in while the parish priest was away. He was celebrating Mass and shed his blood at the foot of the altar,” he said.
“He died kneeling in his vestments. In that moment, Fr Hamel’s sacrifice was perfectly united to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that he was celebrating at the altar. The Mass was complete.
“I know very little about the old priest, but I can imagine him living a long life of self-sacrifice, as most priests do.
“His final sacrifice summed up a whole lifetime. He died as a kind of martyr – a witness to the one whose eternal sacrifice he lived. In a sense he was always just filling in – for the Risen Lord who chooses men and women to live his sacrifice, and priests in a special way.
“May Père Jacques rest in peace and rise in glory – and may the shedding of his blood help break the power of violence in France and beyond.”
“He has been a priest since 1958 and celebrated 50 years as a priest in 2008,” he wrote
“We offer our prayers and sympathy to all the people grieving in that parish and to all the people of the Archdiocese of Rouen, including those who had been taken hostage and witnessed the assault, having gathered for weekday Mass.
“We pray for the Sister who is injured.”
Pope Francis was informed about the hostage situation at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen and the murder Fr Hamel, Holy See spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said.
“With pain and horror” for the “absurd violence”, Pope Francis expressed his condemnation of “every form of hatred” and offered his prayers for all those involved.
“We are particularly stricken because this horrible violence occurred in a church – a sacred place in which the love of God is proclaimed – with the barbaric killing of a priest,” Fr Lombardi said.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, who was in Krakow, Poland, with World Youth Day pilgrims when the attacked occurred, said he would return to his archdiocese.
“The Catholic Church can take up no weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among people of goodwill,” the Archbishop said in a statement from Krakow.
He said that while he would leave Poland, hundreds of young people from his diocese would remain.
“I ask them not to give in to violence,” but instead “become apostles of the civilisation of love”.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the two assailants – who were shot dead by the police – were “soldiers” retaliating against the United States-led coalition fighting the group in Iraq and Syria.
By Matt Emerick