Five years after the attack in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, the parish is recovering

Testimony. Five years after the assassination of Father Hamel, Father Gauthier Mapana proudly continues the work of his predecessor. Following the tragedy, the community united, he assures, and the church has become a place of pilgrimage.

«Pwhy here? Why is this parish ignored? Why this priest, so calm, almost withdrawn? “

Five years later, “Everyone remembers”, and the questions left unanswered still work Father Gauthier Mapana and the community of faithful of the Saint-Étienne Church, in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Father Jacques Hamel was assassinated on July 26, 2016 in a attack claimed by the terrorist group Islamic State. This drama, but also the start of the community are at the center of a program offered next week on France 2 (see opposite).

Everything in the entrance to St. Stephen’s Church recalls Father Mapana’s predecessor. On the left, a huge portrait bearing the effigy of Father Jacques Hamel is hung. It was offered, two days after the attack, by Moubine, a Muslim believer in the city.

“Overcome this fear”

A guestbook is located just below. Believers seek the help of the “Blessed Father Hamel”. The man of the Church, who has become an icon, will he be designated a martyr tomorrow? “The file is being studied in Rome, but our parishioners want it, indeed”, acquiesce Gauthier Mapana.

In any case, the attack had the effect of placing the “Ignored parish” of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, on the map of believers, everywhere in France. “People come here on pilgrimage. The faithful have awakened, smiles the abbot. Right after the attack, there were two opposing reactions. Some of our faithful were afraid and resigned themselves not to come. Others said to themselves: “we were baptized here”, or “we got married here”, and on the contrary, found the courage to come, sometimes from afar, to show their support ”, remembers the abbot with pride. He also remembers his appointment, in this church, branded with the hot iron: “I was not afraid of being appointed here, because I had the support of the whole diocese, and because I had to help the community to overcome this fear”, continues the abbot, who today has under his responsibility four churches, those of Oissel and those of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray.

For the man of faith, since the tragedy, the community has continued to grow. “We have set up spiritual exercises to get us back on our feet, such as the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or through prayers with rosaries”, explains the member, like Father Hamel, of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

“Ferments of solidarity”

He uses this experience to “To strengthen ties between Catholics. We must have the strength to move forward because it is our strength, we are not alone. To bathe in solitude is to take the risk of relapsing into mourning ”, he analyzes. Still today, “When there is an attack, as was the case in Nice, it creates a stir. And then we see a new influx of the faithful, who come to ask questions. “

“The links have tightened around this post-attack, also confirms Hubert Wulfranc, now deputy (communist) of Seine-Maritime, and mayor of the city at the time of the tragedy. We were struck five years ago now, and we are still marked by this memory, very present in the community of Saint-Etienne. “

He believes, like Father Gauthier Mapana, that the health crisis highlights the importance of social ties. “Reality is what it is. We are again put to the test by lockdowns and curfews. This is an opportunity to consolidate our ferments of solidarity. In Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, we have explored what makes the social bond. Here it has even more dimension ”, assures the elected official.

“We have experienced a lot of encounters, resumes the abbot. And we continue to have them, especially with our Muslim friends on the theme of solidarity. “

From their unanswered questions, the Stéphanois have found a reason to exist.

On the screen

During Lent, the program Le Jour du Seigneur, on France 2, offers a special series entitled “Relève-toi”, on communities that have reacted after being tried.

It starts on Sunday February 21. Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray will therefore be at the center of the show next week, with a magazine part, from 10:30 a.m., followed by a mass at 11 a.m. live from the church then an interview at 11 a.m. 50, with novelist Ariane Bois.

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