On Wednesday, July 26, at the same time and in the same church where 85-year-old Fr. Hamel was slain last year, a memorial Mass will be televised live on a Catholic television network and a local station from the church of St-Étienne-du-Rouvray. Emmanuel Macron, president of France, and French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb will be attending. Anouar Kbibech, former president of the French Council of Muslim Worship, also plans to be there.
On July 26, 2016, two 19-year-old ISIS-affiliated terrorists stormed the altar during morning Mass offered by Fr. Hamel. Witnesses said the murder was filmed by the killers and Islamic rites were recited in a type of ad hoc ceremony. Nuns and faithful attending Mass were held hostage as the Islamic terrorists brought Fr. Hamel to his knees before they slit his throat. One of the nuns was able to sneak out and alert local police, who arrived, shooting the terrorists as they fled the church yelling "Daesh" (another name for ISIS).
Local authorities and the archdiocese of Rouen, in the region of Normandy, are attempting to bring Church and state together in a country where they are normally separated. A monument will be unveiled aiming to underscore that Fr. Hamel's death was not only an attack on a holy priest, but on the values that define Western culture.
On Wednesday evening, Vespers will be held at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Bonsecours in Rouen, followed by prayers at the tomb of Fr. Hamel.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen began the formal process of sainthood for Fr. Hamel, currently a Servant of God, to be officially declared a martyr. Statements will be heard from members of the congregation who witnessed his death, along with the priest's family members and clergy who knew him well, and some of his Muslim friends.
Pope Francis has waived the traditional five-year period before the cause for sainthood could normally commence.
In April, a special Mass was held by the Pope in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Rome's Tiber Island, where Fr. Hamel's breviary is on display near relics of Spanish and Italian priests, including the stole of Don Pino Puglisi, a priest from Palermo, Sicily, who was killed by the mafia in 1993.
During the Mass, Fr. Hamel's sister, Roseline, in a testimony to her brother's love for God, noted he had been fragile, but "he was also strong — strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and, I am certain, also for his killers."
Father Hamel was born on November 30, 1930 in Darnétal, France. He was ordained on June 30, 1958 in Rouen and served God and the faithful entrusted to him for 58 years until his death.
Before becoming a priest, Hamel was a soldier in Algeria for 18 months. He declined an opportunity to become an officer because he refused to issue orders that would command men to kill.
"Even in his old age, he was still just as invested with the parish life," said Fr. Aimé-Rémi Mputu Amba of the Rouen archdiocese to Le Figaro. "We used to joke around and tell him 'Jacques, you're doing too much! It's high time you retire!' And he would always laugh it off and say, 'Have you ever met a retired priest? I'll work until my last breath.'"