In a show of solidarity, Muslims across France are attending Catholic Mass on Sunday after the brutal murder of a priest.
Two men attacked a church in the small town of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen on Tuesday, and slit 85-year-old Jacques Hamel’s throat, as reported. The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State through its Aamaq news agency.
As AFP reported, the French Muslim council CFCM called for the gesture “to show their ‘solidarity and compassion’ over the priest’s murder.”
“We are all Catholics of France,” said CFCM head Anouar Kbibech, according to the BBC.
There was a particularly strong turnout at the cathedral in Rouen, near the site of the attack.
“We are very moved by the presence of our Muslim friends and I believe it is a courageous act that they did by coming to us,” Rouen’s archbishop Dominique Lebrun said following the service, as the Associated Press reported.
The wire service described the scene:
“Some of the Muslims sat in the front row, across from the altar. Among the parishioners was one of the nuns who was briefly taken hostage at Hamel’s church when he was killed. …
“Outside the church, a group of Muslims were applauded when they unfurled a banner: ‘Love for all. Hate for none.’ ”
As AFP reported, a particularly moving moment occurred during the sign of the peace — the portion of the mass where the congregation members greet each other. “Archbishop Lebrun used the moment to step into the congregation and greet Muslim leaders attending, as well as three nuns who were at the church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray when Hamel was murdered,” as the wire service reported.
“For me, it is very important to be here today,” Mohammed Karabila, president of the mosque in the town where Hamel was killed, told the BBC. “Today we wanted to show physically, by kissing the family of Jacques Hamel, by kissing His Grace Lebrun in front of everybody, so they know that the two communities are united.”
A Muslim delegation also attended Mass in Nice, the city where an attacker plowed his truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day earlier this month, killing 84 people.
“Being united is a response to this act of horror and barbarism,” said Otaman Aissaoui, Nice’s top imam, according to AFP.
The wire service reports that Paris and Bordeaux also saw Muslims attending mass. The BBC reports that Muslim leaders attended mass in Italy, where “three imams sat in the front row at Santa Maria Trastevere church in Rome.”