Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Muslims show solidarity with Catholics after priest's murder

Published:Monday | August 1, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Muslims attend a Mass in Rome's Saint Mary in Trastevere church, Italy, on Sunday. Imams and practicing Muslims attended Mass across Italy, from Palermo in the south to Milan in the north, in a sign of solidarity after the France church attack in which an elderly priest was slain.

ROUEN (AP):

In a gesture of solidarity following the gruesome killing of a French priest, Muslims on Sunday attended Catholic Mass in churches and cathedrals across France and Italy.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said that 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," said Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, 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 after the priest was killed. She joined her fellow Catholics in turning to shake hands or embrace the Muslim churchgoers after the service.

Outside the church, a group of Muslims were applauded when they unfurled a banner: 'Love for all. Hate for none.'

Churchgoer Jacqueline Prevot said that the attendance of Muslims was "a magnificent gesture.

"Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass," she said. "I find this very heartwarming; I am confident when 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."

Similar interfaith gatherings were repeated elsewhere in France, as well as in neighbouring Italy. At Paris' iconic Notre Dame cathedral, Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Mosque of Paris, said repeatedly that Muslims want to live in peace.

"The situation is serious," Boubakeur told BFMTV. "Time has come to come together so as not to be divided."

In Italy, the secretary general of the country's Islamic Confederation, Abdullah Cozzolino, spoke from the altar in the Treasure of St Gennaro chapel next to Naples' Duomo cathedral. Three imams also attended Mass at the St Maria Church in Rome's Trastevere neighbourhood, donning their traditional dress as they entered the sanctuary and sat down in the front row.