PARIS (CNA/EWTN News) – Sister Danielle, one of the religious who was held hostage by ISIS at a church in France, was able to escape in a moment of inattention by the terrorists and alert the police.
However, they were not able to arrive in time to save the life of 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel.
Speaking to RMC Radio, the sister related the incident that led to the death of the first priest at the hands of ISIS in Europe and which left another person severely wounded.
“I didn't think they were going to come after Jacques. It was still dawn. He was standing in front of the altar, they made him get down on his knees and then he started to resist. When we saw the knife in the right hand I said to myself, 'well, something's really going to happen there,'” she said.
Sister Danielle said that even though the other nun and the faithful present were shouting to the terrorists to stop, they went ahead.
“They were shouting, 'You Christians are wiping us out.' They were taping themselves on video. They made a kind of sermon around the altar in Arabic. It was horrifying.”
“He was an extraordinary priest,” she recalled, “that's all I can say. Father Jacques is great.”
Father Hamel was killed Tuesday after two armed gunmen stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy during Mass. The assailants entered the church and took the celebrating priest and four others hostage. Local law enforcement reported that the priest’s throat was slit in the attack, and that both of the hostage takers were shot dead by police. One of the hostages has been critically wounded.
Pope Francis decried the “absurd violence” in a statement Tuesday, adding that he is praying for those affected by the tragedy.
The French bishops have designated Friday, July 29, as a day of fasting. Msgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, secretary general of the French Bishops Conference who's currently in Poland for World Youth Day, discussed the decision July 26.
“What happened in France had happened in other countries before, and actually we see Christians laying down their lives in the interests of their faith,” he told journalists in Krakow.
“They die because they are objects of hate and this for a fact gives us an additional motivation to live the life of fraternity we are called to.”