Migrant tried for setting fire to Nantes Cathedral murders a priest after his release

By Lucie Ctverakova
4 Min Read

On Monday, the body of a Catholic priest, who had been murdered, was found in the village of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre near Nantes, France. The killer is Emmanuel Abayisenga, a 40-year-old Rwandan who set fire to Nantes Cathedral in July 2020. The man was released from custody some time after the arson attack and placed under judicial supervision. Recently, the perpetrator was released from the psychiatric ward of a hospital. In the past, the man received three deportation orders.

“All my support goes to the Catholics of our country after the dramatic murder of a priest in Vendée. I’m heading to the spot,” wrote Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Twitter.

“To attack the man of the Church is to attack the soul of France,” added Darmanin.

The man, who was from Rwanda, worked as a volunteer sacristan. After setting the Nantes Cathedral on fire, he spent several months in custody. He was then released before the trial began and placed under judicial supervision. He had to stay in a religious community and report to the court twice a month. On June 20, the murdered priest called the police because Abayisenga wanted to leave the place. The perpetrator then went to the hospital in La Roche-Sur-Yon, where he spent a month in psychiatric care. On July 29, he was released from the hospital.

On Monday morning, Emmanuel Abayisenga arrived at the police station in Mortagne-sur-Sèvre to report that he had killed the priest with whom he was staying. The police then found the 60-year-old priest, Olivier Maire, dead.

According to the interior minister, Abayisenga came to France illegally in 2012, received three deportation orders, and authorities refused to grant him asylum.

“We could not enforce the decision to deport this person because he was in prison for several months and then released under judicial supervision,” the minister said, adding that the judicial review had explicitly stated so.

The Le Figaro daily reported on Monday evening that after being arrested for the murder, the Rwandan was released, again, due to his mental health issues. Subsequently, he was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward.

Darmanin said that the man himself asked for psychiatric care and was not known to be under the influence of Islamic radicals.

The murder affected Senator Bruno Retailleau, who expressed his sadness over the death of the priest he knew.

“I want to pay tribute to Father Olivier Maire, the Montfortian superior who was murdered by a criminal he took care of out of charity. His death testifies to the goodness of this priest, whom I knew well and whose deep faith I appreciated. His death is a great loss,” he wrote on Twitter.

Not only condolences but also outrage accompanied the tweets of Senator Retailleau.

“I am deeply affected by the horrific murder of the priest in Vendée who welcomed the killer to his house. The killer was an undocumented man who set fire to Nantes Cathedral. What else did this man do in France?” he wrote on his account.

According to the senator, now is the time for prayers, but then, he will demand the state to take responsibility for prematurely releasing the Rwandan from custody.

Title image: The murdered priest, Father Olivier Maire. (Bruno Retailleau / Twitter)

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