At his General Audience on Wednesday in front of French-speaking faithful, Pope Francis expressed his grief and sadness over the murder of 60-year-old priest Fr. Olivier Maire. He said that he learned of the murder “with great sorrow.”
“I extend my condolences to the religious community of the Monfortians in Saint-laurent-sur-Sèvre, Vendée, to his family and to all Catholics in France,” the pope said. He also assured everyone affected by Fr. Maire’s death of his “spiritual nearness.”
On Monday, news broke that a French priest had been murdered the previous day. Fr. Maire was found lifeless in his home in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, a commune in the Vendée department, western France. According to the autopsy report, “the victim had six lesions, all to the head, inflicted by violent blows,” but the weapon used had not been identified.
Fr. Maire was the local provincial superior of the Montfort Missionaries, a religious congregation founded by St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. Many said that the priest had been a hospitable and caring host to people who visited the Monfortians. (Read: A Prayer to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to Help You Through Grief and Loss)
Sister Véronique Margron, president of the Conference of Religious in France, said that Fr. Maire’s hospitality recalled the Paschal mystery.
Soon after Fr. Maire’s body was found, a 40-year-old Rwandan immigrant said to be Emmanuel Abayisenga turned himself in to the authorities. According to reports, the immigrant confessed to the murder of the priest.
The Rwandan immigrant was living with Fr. Maire, after the priest took him in and took care of him in their community. “They [Monfortians] did this with full knowledge of the facts, welcoming advice; yet no one told them that this man could be so dangerous,” Sr. Margron said of the community’s hospitality and generosity. (Read: Lourdes, France: The Most Famous Healing Shrine in the World)
The 40-year-old remains in France and has not been deported as he is in the midst of a “judicial process” in French courts. The immigrant is also a suspect in the arson attack at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of Nantes back in July 2020.