Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, France, was attending the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in Poland last July when the news came. One of his priests, 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, had been murdered by Islamic State-inspired terrorists while celebrating morning mass on July 26.
Archbishop Lebrun soon received an urgent request from François Hollande, then the French president. Fearful of civil unrest between the nation’s Christians and Muslims, Mr. Hollande requested the archbishop speak with him before making any public statements. “What will you say?” the president asked the archbishop. “I am going to pray and ask God to help me love my enemies,” he replied.
A few months later, Mr. Hollande admitted the prelate had stunned him: He actually seemed to believe what he was saying, and his tone of forgiveness and reconciliation was crucial after the attack. The following week Muslims throughout the country were encouraged by Islamic leaders to attend Mass as a show of solidarity with their Catholic neighbors.
The killing moved millions of people, including Pope Francis. In September the pope described Hamel as a martyr. He urged Catholics to ask for the intercession of the late priest so that he “gives us the courage to say the truth: to kill in the name of God is satanic….”
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) July 21, 2017