Rwandan Immigrant on Trial for Arson, Murders Catholic Priest in France

Emmanuel Abayisenga, a Rwandan immigrant, has given himself up to the police in France for the alleged murder of a priest.

40 year old Abayisenga who is awaiting trial for arson of a cathedral in Nantes, allegedly beat the French Provincial of the Montfort Missionaries, Father Olivier Maire, to death on Monday morning.

On July 25, 2020, the suspect, also a Catholic, confessed to setting ablaze the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, where he had been volunteering as a warden. Abayisenga, who arrived in France in 2012, set fire to the medieval cathedral in Nantes, causing millions of pounds in damage.

The most severe damage to Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s, which took 400 years to repair, was the destruction of the organ dating back to 1621.

He was arrested and detained, but in May 2021 was released on bail and placed under judicial control while he awaits trial for arson.

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With his passport seized and having nowhere to go, Abayisenga was taken in by Father Maire’s Montfortian community, which is made up of missionaries devoted to Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort.

Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, tweeted that he was praying for the Catholic community in the country following today’s murder of the priest.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s Far-Right National Rally, reacted furiously to the killing, saying: ‘You can be an illegal migrant, set fire to a cathedral, not be expelled and then re-offend by murdering a priest’.

Darmanin, in a reaction to Le Pen’s tweet, said Abayisenga could not be expelled from France while under judicial control, and that he had previously been given leave to stay in the country.

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The killing comes five years after the horrifying murder of 85-year-old French Catholic priest Jacques Hamel while celebrating Mass.

Father Santino Brembilla, superior general of the Montfort Missionaries, described Father Maire as a “religious, a priest and a missionary of great value, a specialist in Montfort spirituality who accompanied his entire community in coming to a profound understanding of the message of their founder, Louise-Marie Gignion de Montfort.”

Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, president of the French bishops’ conference, described the priest’s murder as a “terrible tragedy.”

He tweeted, “He will have lived following Christ until the very end, in the unconditional acceptance of all. While waiting for more complete elements that the investigation will bring, I pray for his family and his religious brothers. I pray for all the people traumatized by this tragedy, for his assassin too, who is at least psychologically adrift, and I assure (Lucon) Bishop (Francois) Jacolin of my fraternal support. May God grant us the grace to serve him always and in all.”


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