France: “First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People”

The slaughter of French priest Father Jacques Hamel on July 26 in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray was significant. The church where Father Jacques Hamel was saying mass was nearly empty. Five people were present; three nuns and two faithful. Most of the time, French churches are empty.

Christianity in France is dying out. Jacques Hamel was almost 86 years old; despite his age, he did not want to retire. He knew it would be difficult to find someone to replace him. Priests of European descent are now rare in France, as in many European countries. The priest officially in charge of the parish of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, Auguste Moanda-Phuati, is Congolese.

The reaction of the French bishops was also significant. Speaking in their name, Georges Pontier, chairman of the Conference of Bishops of France, called on Catholics for a day of fasting and prayer. He also asked Muslims living in France to come to church to “share the grief of Christians.” He added that Muslims are welcome in France.

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