What do you say to the mother of the man who killed your brother?

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On July 26, 2016, in a small church in the south of France, Fr. Jacques Hamel was murdered by an Islamic terrorist. The terrorist was killed by the police on that same day.

His older sister, Roselyne Hamel, recalls what happened with great pain.

Sister of Fr. Hamel

Early on, I thought of the Virgin Mary, who suffered the same pain of following her son's martyrdom without being able to intervene—as we did at the end of the street, almost at the foot of our brother's church, without being able to intervene. So, in front of the altar at the church, I asked the Virgin Mary to give me the strength to stand and walk in my brother's footsteps, just as she had walked in her son's footsteps.

Roselyne recounted all of this at a meeting with journalists in Rome. It was for an event to present the “International Father Jacques Hamel Award,” which seeks to promote journalism that helps build peace.

During that meeting, Roselyne also explained the reasons that led her to seek out the mother of the man who killed her brother.

Sister of Fr. Hamel

A few weeks later, I thought to myself, 'what if I were the mother of this son who had become a young murderer and killed a clergyman? How would I suffer as his mother?' From then on, I arranged to meet a young journalist who worked at the town hall to ask him if he knew this family and to ask them if I could call them, assuring that I meant them no harm.

The first face-to-face meeting was a moment she will never forget.

Sister of Fr. Hamel

It was a moment of special grace. When she opened the door for us, she opened her arms and asked our forgiveness. I told her that I didn't come for forgiveness, I came to manage our pain together, so she was very moved. She gave me a big hug.

The assassination of Fr. Jacques Hamel left an impact in Rome. Now, his breviary is in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew dedicated to recent martyrs. And in 2016, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Vatican together with Fr. Hamel's family members. During the homily, he said “today in the Church there are more Christian martyrs than in the early times” and that Fr. Hamel “is now part of this network.”


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