“Even in his old age, he was still just as invested with the parish life. 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.’”
That’s how fellow priest Fr. Aimé-Rémi Mputu Amba remembered Fr. Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old priest who had his throat slit by ISIS agents while celebrating Mass in a small town in norther France.
Fr. Auguste Moanda-Phuati, the head priest of the parish where the ISIS attack took place, echoed Fr. Mputu: “He could have retired at 75 years old, but seeing how few priests were around he decided to stay and work, to continue to be of service to people, up until it all ended, tragically.”
“He was loved by all,” Fr. Moanda-Phuati added, “He was a little like a grandfather. We were happy when he was around and worried when we hadn’t seen him in a while.”
Fr. Hamel was celebrating morning Mass in a church in a small town in Normandy France when ISIS agents stormed into the church. They took the small number of people attending hostage and slit the throat of the priest, all while video recording themselves. Fr. Hamel is widely being called a martyr for the Christian faith.
Many others who knew Fr. Hamel have been speaking out.
“The priest who was killed was the one who married us,” one man told France24, “so we are very sad. He was there for my son’s baptism. It is awful.”
“He… paid attention to people,” another man said, “who always had a kind word, and noticed small things. He was really a good man.”
Sr. Danielle, who was present at the Mass and witnessed the attack, also spoke highly of Fr. Hamel, “I must say he was an extraordinary priest, that’s all I can say and a great, a great Father Jacques.”
The vicar general of the local diocese commended Fr. Hamel’s character: “He was joyous, sometimes anxious, like those who want everything to be done well. He was a humble, gentle person. He came here to be of service. What really impressed people was that, at that age, he still had the will to serve.
“He was fully engaged with the community, and very much appreciated. People appreciated his humility.”