The archdiocese of Rouen has opened a formal inquiry into the Cause for beatification of Fr Jacques Hamel, who was killed while celebrating Mass last July.

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen announced the opening of the inquiry at the end of his Chrism Mass.

Fr Hamel was killed at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray church near Rouen when, police said, two young men who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State stormed the church. After taking several hostages, the attackers slit Fr Hamel’s throat and seriously injured another parishioner. Following a standoff, police killed the attackers, ending the hostage situation.

Traditionally, the Vatican requires a five-year waiting period after the death of a candidate for sainthood before a Cause is opened. Pope Francis waived the rule in response to pleas from French Catholics.

The Pope called Fr Hamel a martyr during a special requiem for the priest last September in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican.

“Fr Jacques Hamel had his throat slit on the cross, at the exact moment he was celebrating the sacrifice of Christ’s cross,” the Pope said. “A good man, meek, brotherly and who always sought to make peace, was murdered as if he were a criminal. This is the satanic line of persecution.”

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