Saturday, March 08, 2008

Executed murderer's canonisation controversy

A French Church official has defended moves to canonise a convicted murderer amid criticism from the media.

“The tabloid press has objected that beatifying a murderer would be an insult to society. It’s a good illustration of how far the Church has travelled from the social mainstream that it’s no longer afraid of going against this,” said Jean Duchesne, president of the Paris diocesan commission which is reviewing the life of Jacques Fesch half a century after he was guillotined for shooting a policeman in a bungled robbery.

“What matters isn’t public opinion, or who might be against it, but the fruits Fesch’s example might eventually bear,” he said.

“There have been no formal objections. Everything now depends on the popular cult that’s slowly developing around Fesch, as well as on attributing miracles to him and identifying the lessons his story teaches.”

Fesch’s sainthood cause was launched in the Archdiocese of Paris under a 1987 decree by the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

Duchesne said his commission was close to completing its documentation, including more than 1,000 letters by Fesch, and said the Paris archdiocesan postulator, Fr Henri Moreau, hoped to forward the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes in 2009.

“Of course, it would be unprecedented to beatify an executed murderer – the only comparison would be the man crucified alongside Jesus Christ,” said Fr Duchesne.

“But Fesch considered his own execution as a gift from God, a blessing by divine providence. The message is that God still cares for someone who’s been legally sentenced to death and executed. No one is so abandoned and rejected as to be beyond God’s love.”

Born into a wealthy banking family, Fesch was expelled from school for laziness and misconduct.

In 1954, he tried to rob a currency dealer, and eventually he was executed for killing a pursuing police officer.

He recorded his spiritual journey in a journal which was preserved by his wife, whom he married in a Catholic ceremony a few days before being beheaded at the age of 27 in La Sante Prison in 1957.

Writings by the killer, who described his prison conversion as “a violent wind that passes without anyone knowing from where it came,” later formed the basis for three regularly reprinted best-sellers, Light Over the Scaffold; Cell 18 and In Five Hours I shall See Jesus. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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