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"Let us learn to live together": Sister of priest slain by jihadists addresses mourners

Despite the rain, thousands have gathered outside Rouen’s cathedral to show their respects.

Updated 21.50pm

THOUSANDS GATHERED AT Rouen’s cathedral in northern France today for the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old priest who was murdered by two jihadists last week.

Some 2,000 mourners were expected to pack the soaring Gothic sanctuary, with hundreds more watching the ceremony on a giant screen outside.

A section of pews was set aside for residents of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, the nearby industrial town where the priest was murdered.

Father Hamel was celebrating mass when two jihadists, both 19, slit his throat in an attack that shocked the country as well as the Catholic Church.

France Church Attack Funeral Police officers patrol as people wait outside the Rouen cathedral, Normandy, before the funeral mass for the priest that has been killed by two Islamic extremists last week in the nearby town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“As brutal and unfair and horrible as Jacques’ death was, we have to look deep into our hearts to find the light,” said Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun.

A red stole, symbolising Christ’s martyrdom, was draped over a giant cross beside the altar, with the Rouen diocese explaining that “Father Hamel’s death was similar to that of Christ, unjustly convicted and put to death.”

Another red stole was set atop a white priest’s vestment lying over Hamel’s coffin.

In a show of inter-faith solidarity, Muslims and Jews were among the mourners.

“It was a duty,” Hassan Houays, a Muslim maths teacher from Saint-Etienne said. “We are here so that we can get along together.”

Reconciliation was an overarching theme of the mass, which recalled Jesus urging his followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

Hamel’s sister Roselyne told the congregation: “Let us learn to live together. The world has so much need for hope.”

France Church Attack Funeral Police officers watch Muslim worshipers leaving the funeral mass for priest Jacques Hamel, outside the Rouen cathedral, Normandy. Source: AP/Press Association Images

‘Never again’

Archbishop Lebrun said the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities have “decided to come together to say ‘never again’.”

Along with churches across France, the Rouen cathedral had on Sunday seen Muslims attend mass in a gesture of solidarity after the grisly attack, with the visitors paying a moving tribute to Hamel while denouncing radical Islam.

© – AFP, 2016

Read: ‘Kind, shy and dedicated’, Fr Jacques Hamel is the 236th victim of jihadists in France since 2015

Read: French Muslims refuse to bury teenager who killed priest

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