A few dozen Muslims gathered at the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, near Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where the 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel had his throat slit by two teenage Muslim fanatics on Tuesday.
“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,” Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, said after the service.
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. She joined her fellow Catholics in turning to shake hands or embrace the Muslim churchgoers after the service. “Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass,” she said. “I find this very heartwarming. I am confident. I say to myself that this assassination won’t be lost, that it will maybe relaunch us better than politics can do. Maybe we will react in a better way.”
Abdullah Cozolino, secretary general of Italy’s Islamic Confederation attended service at the Treasure of St. Gennaro chapel where he spoke from the altar.
In his Friday sermon, Mohammed ben Mohammed of the Union of Islamic communities in Italy encouraged people “to report anyone who may be intent on damaging society. I am sure that there are those among the faithful who are ready to speak up.” “I am not afraid. … These people are tainting our religion and it is terrible to know that many people consider all Muslim terrorists. That is not the case,” El Balazi said. “Religion is one thing. Another is the behavior of Muslims who don’t represent us.”