Pope Benedict XVI greeted the sister of Jacques Fesch this week at the conclusion of his Wednesday General Audience. Fesch was a young man in Paris who killed a police officer and was condemned to death in 1957. While in prison, his conversion was so dramatic that in 1993, then-Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger opened his cause for beatification.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who was chaplain at the prison where Fesch was incarcerated, was also present at the brief meeting. “This is a unique testimony,” he explained. “A young man from a rich family became a murderer and was condemned to death. He was 27. In prison he experienced a radical, intense conversion, reaching great heights of spirituality,” the cardinal said.
Fesch’s sister Monique remarked, “I got along great with my brother. I was eight years older and I was his godmother at his baptism. As I visited him in prison I was able to see his extraordinary conversion up close.”
Together with her brother’s biographer, Ruggiero Francavilla, Monique showed the Pope some letters written by Fesch during his time in prison.
Jacques Fesch killed a policeman on February 25, 1954 in Paris after a frustrated robbery attempt. After his imprisonment he began a three year-long period in which he experienced a conversion leading him to write a series of profound spiritual letters. He was condemned to the guillotine on April 6, 1957 and on October 1 of that year he was executed.
His wife Pierette and his daughter devoted themselves to preserving his memory, and later with the help of a Carmelite sister, they published his letters as part of a book entitled, “In Five Hours I Will See Jesus.”
Upon opening his cause of beatification, Cardinal Lustiger said, “I hope one day he is venerated as a model of holiness.”