Pope Francis paves way for French priest murdered by Isis supporters to receive sainthood

Father Jacques Hamel does not need to be associated with miracles in order to be canonised as he is recognised as a martyr

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The Independent Online

The French priest who was murdered by Islamist terrorists in July is set to be made a saint.

Pope Francis has waived a five-year delay - normally required after the death of potential saints - to allow an investigation to be opened into the canonisation of Father Jacques Hamel.

Under normal circumstances, miracles must be attributed to any candidate for sainthood but an exception is made in the case of martyrs.

The Pope made clear at a Vatican Mass in September that he believes Father Hamel to be a martyr and said he is already considered ‘blessed’ – the first step towards possible sainthood.

On Sunday, at a service to reopen the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, which included a procession through the town and a special cleansing ceremony, Archbishop Dominic Lebrun announced that the process to canonise Father Hamel had begun.

Becoming a saint takes time and, even after the waiting period, there must be a detailed examination of the life of the candidate and numerous interviews conducted with associates to ensure they have lived a sufficiently holy life to merit the honour.

Archbishop Lebrun was told by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints that Pope Francis had “dispensed” with the waiting period. This has happened for other saints, such as Mother Teresa and John Paul II.

In a mass dedicated to the memory of Father Hamel last month, Pope Francis has said he was: “Slaughtered in the Cross, just as a he celebrated the sacrifice of the Cross of Christ.

“A good man, meek, a brother, who was always trying to make peace, was assassinated as if he was a criminal.”

The murder of Father Hamel as by Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean as he led a service sent shockwaves through France over the summer.

His killers, who had pledged allegiance to extremist group Isis, also tried to use nuns as human shields but were shot by police.

There was strong support among Catholics for Father Hamel’s canonisation very shortly after his death, but all such decisions must be declared by the Pope before they can be acted upon.