Nantes, Nice, and Father Jacques Hamel: Priest Slaying Is Latest Attack on French Catholics

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France’s Catholic community has suffered its latest fatal attack after a Rwandan migrant who confessed to setting last year’s fire at Nantes Cathedral handed himself in to police admitting to killing Father Olivier Maire in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre.

Identified as Emmanuel A. in French media but named in full elsewhere as Emmanuel Abayisenga, the Rwandan had in July 2020 admitted to the arson of the Gothic cathedral. The 40-year-old migrant, who had been a volunteer at the place of worship and was in charge of locking up the building in the evening, had allegedly lit three fires on July 18th of that year, destroying stained-glass windows, a historic painting, and the grand organ, among other damage.

Released from prison under judicial control in May while still awaiting trial for the arson, Abayisenga was taken in by Father Olivier Maire and lived at the Montfortains religious community in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, south of Nantes. The migrant reportedly handed himself in on Monday morning to police, admitting to killing the 60-year-old priest.

According to France Info, the migrant had been subject to a deportation order but could not be removed while still under the judicial control order. For Breitbart London’s full coverage, read here.

The incident would not be the first time members of the Catholic community were killed in France in recent years.

In October 2020, 22-year-old Tunisian illegal alien Brahim Aouissaoui fatally stabbed three people in the Basilica of Notre-Dame of Nice before being subdued by police, resulting in him needing hospital treatment. In December, he was indicted for attempted murder in connection to a terror attack.

In the days following the incident, police sources revealed the identities of the three murder victims. One was a 60-year-old woman who had come to the church for the sunrise service and was found “almost beheaded” near the font.

A second woman victim was a Brazilian 44-year-old mother of three living in France, who managed to escape the church and seek refuge in a nearby bar. Before succumbing to her wounds, one witness claimed she said: “Tell my family that I love them.”

The third victim was the basilica’s sacristan — the person in charge of the church plate, vestments, and day-to-day care of a church — a 54-year-old father of two who had been working at the place of worship for a decade.

Forensic investigation of the Tunisian’s mobile phone later revealed Aouissaoui had intended to travel to France specifically to carry out a terror attack, with Paris his initial target.

Just last month, police arrested a 27-year-old radicalised man, named on one of France’s terror watch lists, for making death threats in the basilica after being confronted by staff and parishioners for attempting to steal the church’s donation box.

France’s most notorious killing of a priest in recent years was the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered by two Islamic State jihadists.

On July 26th, 2016, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean burst into the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy, northern France, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” while Father Jacques Hamel was holding mass. The Islamists took Father Jacques and five others hostage, before fatally slitting the throat of the 85-year-old priest.

Father Jacques, who is on the path to sainthood, had ordered the terrorists in his final words: “Be gone, Satan!”

There is currently no indication that Emmanuel Abayisenga had any terrorist motive, with the AFP describing him as a “devout Catholic” — although his alleged burning of a Catholic cathedral and murder of a Catholic priest would seem to be at odds with this description.

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