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Muslims Attend Slain Priest’s Church Reopening

PARIS – Muslims joined a special mass where an elderly priest was killed last July, rejecting violence in the name of religion and stressing their support for mutual interfaith relations between followers of both faiths.

“It will be a day of brotherhood … I hope that all local people will be there, believers or not,” Mohamed Karabila, representing the local mosque, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on October 2 before Sunday’s mass.

The Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray church, a focal point of a small town of some 27,000 near the city of Rouen, reopened its doors on Sunday.

The church held a special penitential mass to mark the occasion and pay tribute to Father Jacques Hamel.

The 85-year-old priest was killed on July 26th in an attack claimed by ISIS.

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

“He was a good priest. I always went to see him and he never refused to be of service,” said 81-year-old Mafalda Pace, who lives just next door to the 16th-century church.

Local clergy joined the archbishop for Sunday’s services, which followed a mid-afternoon procession to the church with members of the local Muslim community pledging to join.

Many Muslims also attended the ceremony, which was relayed on a big screen in the town square.

“This is a new stage of healing, of convalescence,” said town mayor Hubert Wulfranc, who hopes to erect a monument in memory of Fr Hamel.

Muslim leaders came out shortly after the horrendous attacks to condemn them.

Among those condemning the attack were the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) and Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, said the attack was a “blasphemous sacrilege which goes against all the teachings of our religion.”

The Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) has also condemned the shocking attack, expressing its full support to all the Christian communities in France.

The CFCM itself called it a “terrifying and horrifying act”, and was were backed by the Muslim group CRCM (Conseil régional du culte musulmam), which announced that it would hold a minute of silence for the victims on Thursday.