Campaign will help 1,000 seminarians in honor of murdered French priest

Hamel Fr. Jacques Hamel, who was killed while saying Mass by Islamic State terrorists July 26, 2016.

A Catholic charity is launching a campaign to support the studies of 1,000 seminarians around the world in honor of a French priest who was killed by ISIS sympathizers while celebrating Mass two weeks ago.

The Italian chapter of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need announced the campaign, which will help fund the education of future priests in 21 dioceses around the world.  

"Support for the formation of new priests is a concrete response to fundamentalism, because especially in countries where the extremist threat is the greatest, the ministers of God must possess the appropriate tools to promote dialogue and contribute to a peaceful coexistence between all the religious groups, putting an end to the conflicts," said Alessandro Monteduro, director of the group in Italy.

The campaign comes in response to the July 26 murder of Father Jacques Hamel, an 84-year-old priest who was killed while celebrating Mass in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, in which two armed gunmen stormed the church, taking the priest and four others hostage. They slit Fr. Hamel's throat and critically injured another of the hostages before being shot dead by police.

Aid to the Church in Need Italy said on its website that it will offer support to seminarians belonging to dioceses in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia. Monteduro explained that "we chose the seminaries that had the greatest need for aid, to allow them to accommodate more students and form what we consider to be the new 'soldiers of the faith.'"

According to the agency, there are a great number of young men who want to become priests in areas experiencing great poverty and persecution, despite the difficulties they face.

The pontifical foundation also noted that the Church is the first to promote religious dialogue as well as to offer the young people alternatives to violence. In this sense, the group said, the contribution of Catholic schools is crucial in spreading the values of peace and mutual respect.

It is because of this, Monteduro concluded, that "forming well-prepared priests in a powerful weapon against fundamentalism" as well as "the Christian presence being visible, especially in those societies under attack by the extremists."

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