A Rwandan immigrant is suspected of the murder of a Catholic priest in the Vendée department in western France. A man who was previously suspected in the Nantes Cathedral fire in 2020 has turned himself over to the police, a source familiar with the investigation cited by Reuters and AFP said.
A Rwandan immigrant came to the police station on Monday morning and said he had murdered a Catholic priest, a source related to the investigation said. Soon after, the police found the victim’s body in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre. According to preliminary reports, the police had a knife attack.
In the afternoon’s press conference, the regional deputy prosecutor Yannick Le Goater said the suspect in the killing of the priest did not appear to have terrorist motives. He also confirmed that he had been detained and was still in custody.
Senator from the Vendée: I am deeply shaken by the horrible murder of a priest
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin reassured his “support for Catholics after the dramatic murder of a priest in the Vendée”. He also announced that he would go to the place where the crime took place.
Vendée Senator Bruno Retailleau said the victim was Father Olivier Maire, who offered shelter to a Rwandan after his release from custody in May. According to French media, the suspect was then sent to a mental hospital where he stayed until July. “I am deeply shaken by the terrible murder of the priest who took care of the murderer,” Retailleau wrote on Twitter.
A 60-year-old priest, a member of the Montfortain religious community in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, has been sheltering a man “for several months,” a police source told AFP.
The deputy secretary general of the French Bishops’ Conference, Vincent Neymon, who was contacted by the French agency, expressed “astonishment and deep sorrow”. According to him, the priest was the provincial, i.e. the national superior of this congregation in France. The Montfortain Missionaries is a congregation present in some 30 countries, focused on charity and hospitality.
Fire of the Cathedral of Nantes
Emmanuel A., a Rwandan citizen and refugee in France, was investigated as part of the investigation into the Nantes Cathedral fire on July 18, 2020, where he volunteered.
About a hundred firefighters worked on the site during the fire, and after a few hours the fire was extinguished. The director of the departmental fire service, General Laurent Ferlay, reported that day that the fire destroyed a centuries-old Baroque organ and a 19th-century painting.
Main photo source: Reuters