Catholic clergyman killed in France, suspect reportedly under police supervision for arson of cathedral
A Catholic priest has been killed in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, a commune in the Vendee, by a man who had reportedly been placed under police supervision, having set fire to a cathedral in Nantes in 2020.
On Monday, a Catholic clergyman was found dead in the town of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre. The French regional deputy prosecutor, Yannick Le Goater, confirmed that the suspect – a Rwandan national – had been arrested, following earlier reports that he had handed himself in.
Police have said they are not currently treating the incident as an act of terrorism.
In a tweet, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed the horrific incident and announced that he would travel to the scene of the crime. “[I offer] all my support for the Catholics of our country after the dramatic assassination of a priest in Vendee.”
The victim has been identified as Father Olivier Maire by Bruno Retailleau, senator of the Vendée, who described in a tweet the clergyman’s death as “a great loss.”
Je veux rendre hommage au Père Olivier Maire, supérieur des Montfortains assassiné par un criminel qu’il hébergeait par charité. Sa mort témoigne de la bonté de ce prêtre que je connaissais bien et et dont j’avais pu apprécier la profondeur de la foi. Sa mort est une grande perte pic.twitter.com/NbH1KogPvR— Bruno Retailleau (@BrunoRetailleau) August 9, 2021
Retailleau stated that Maire had been hosting the perpetrator at the time. “His death testifies to the kindness of this priest whom I knew well and whose depth of faith I had been able to appreciate,” he added.
Sources told BFM TV that the suspect had already served prison time for his role in a fire at Nantes Cathedral in 2020 and was under police supervision.
The suspect is a Rwandan national and a voluntary sacristan (church assistant). Having confessed to being the cause of the Nantes fire, he was imprisoned for several months and had been released pending trial.
As part of his supervision, he had been hosted for several months by the community of Montfortians. Maire was reportedly the chair of the community.
The Rwandan national was ordered to leave the country back in 2019 by immigration authorities, but did not do so. Le Goater said that the Rwandan national had to remain in the country for the duration of the investigation into the Nantes cathedral fire.
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