‘A magnificent gesture’: Muslims attend Catholic mass in France in show of unity

Days after a Catholic priest was beheaded by Islamic terrorists in a French church, Muslims all across France flocked to Catholic churches to celebrate mass on Sunday.

Dozens of Muslims gathered at the Gothic cathedral in Rouen, mere miles from Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel was brutally murdered on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

“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,” Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said after the mass.

Parishioner Jacqueline Prevot called their presence “a magnificent gesture.”

“Look at this whole Muslim community that attended Mass,” she told the AP. “I find this very heartwarming; I am confident. 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.”

Interfaith scenes of solidarity that included Muslim women in hijabs and Jewish men wearing kippot, happened in France as well as Italy on Sunday.

Mohammed ben Mohammed, who is a member of Itay’s Union of Islamic Communities on Friday called on Muslims “to report anyone who may be intent to damage society. I am sure that there are those among the faithful who are ready to speak up.”

Imam Ahmed El Balzai, of the Vobarno mosque in the Lombard province of Brescia, said he wasn’t afraid of backlash from militants for speaking out.

“I am not afraid. … These people are tainting our religion and it is terrible to know that many people consider all Muslim terrorists. That is not the case,” he said. “Religion is one thing. Another is the behavior of Muslims who don’t represent us.”

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni praised the gesture and said those Muslims “are showing their communities the way of courage against fundamentalism.”

Carmine Sabia

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