Pope Francis has authorised the French church to start the preliminary sainthood investigation for the Reverend Jean Hamel, whose throat was slit by Islamist militants as he celebrated Mass in July.
Pope Francis told reporters Sunday he had authorized the gathering of witness testimony to determine if a beatification cause is warranted.
Usually the Vatican requires a five-year waiting period before such investigations can begin, but Francis said he authorised the start of the investigation now since witnesses might die or forget over time.
Father Hamel was killed on 26 July in his parish church in Normandy. Police killed the assailants, and the Isis group claimed responsibility.
In honoring Hamel as a martyr last month, Francis urged all to display the same courage Hamel had and denounced such slayings in the name of God as “satanic”.
According to the Vatican’s complicated saint-making process, people whose deaths are due to hatred for the faith can be declared a martyr and be beatified without having a miracle credited to their intercession.
The Vatican, however, must do a full-fledged investigation to determine if indeed Hamel’s death qualifies as martyrdom.
A miracle is needed to be declared a saint.
The church where Hamel was killed reopened on Sunday for the first time since the attack, with a special cleansing ritual and call for tolerance across religions.
The archbishop of Rouen led a procession through the nearby town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray to the church.
Mayor Hubert Wulfrance said Hamel’s memory “prevails over this so special moment, split between endless emotion and hope in the future.”
“We bear the tragedy of this July 26th, 2016, as an indelible scar on our common history, our national history,” he said to a crowd that included local Muslims invited to take part in the community event.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said the mayor’s words “bolster us in the desire to participate in the common life of your city and of the world, so we will not repeat the tragedy of [drowned Syrian refugee boy] Alan nor the tragedy of Jacques Hamel.”