Thousands of people gathered inside Rouen Cathedral on Tuesday (2 August) for the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, a priest who was killed while leading morning mass in the nearby town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two French citizens chanting in Arabic. The attackers, later named as Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean, were shot dead by police at the scene.

France priest funeral
Mourners gather at Rouen cathedral for the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old priest murdered by two jihadists on 26 JulyCharly Triballeau/AFP
France priest funeral
A picture of Father Jacques Hamel is displayed during his funeralCharly Triballeau/AFP
France priest funeral
A mourner holds a picture of slain Father Jacques Hamel outside the cathedral in RouenJacky Naegelen/Reuters

Held at a 13th-century Gothic church in northern France, the service heard from Hamel's sister Roselyne, who told the congregation how, during his military service, her brother had refused an officer's rank so he wouldn't have to give the order to kill. She went on to say how he was once the only survivor of a desert shootout.

"He would often ask himself: 'Why me?' Today, Jacques, our brother, your brother, you have your answer. Our God of love and mercy chose you to be at the service of others," she said. A picture of Hamel was placed by the altar and people who had come to pay their respects watched the service on a giant television screen outside.

Hamel's murder was the first Islamist attack on a church in western Europe. It came just 12 days after a Tunisian man who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State drove his truck through a crowd of people during Bastille Day celebrations in the Riviera city of Nice, killing 84. Islamist militants have killed more than 200 people in France since January 2015.

Father Jacques Hamel
Pallbearers carry the coffin of the priest Jacques Hamel as they enter Rouen CathedralJoel Saget/ AFP
Father Jacques Hamel
Muslim men pay their respects outside the cathedral in Rouen during the funeral service of Father Jacques HamelJacky Naegelen/Reuters
Father Jacques Hamel
A man holds a paper announcing the funeral order outside Rouen CathedralJoel Saget/ AFP
Father Jacques Hamel
Archbishop of Rouen Dominique Lebrun (C) prays at the Rouen Cathedral in northern FranceCharly Triballeau/ AFP
France priest funeral
People attend the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel in Rouen CathedralCharly Triballeau/AFP
Father Jacques Hamel
The coffin of French parish priest Father Jacques Hamel is seen at the cathedral in RouenCharly Triballeau/ Reuters

Since the 1980s, successive governments have tried to nurture a liberal Islam that would better integrate the faith into French society. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the state must reinvent its relationship with the 'Islam of France'. Valls wants to ban foreign funding for mosques and says all French imams should be trained in France. "We must guard against being paternalistic but we must have the lucidity to recognise that there is an urgency to helping 'Islam of France' get rid of those that undermine it from within," Valls told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

But some Islamic leaders have expressed doubts over the government's plans. "It's on the internet that radicalisation takes place, not in the mosques," Moroccan-born Tareq Oubrou, a leading moderate imam from Bordeaux, told BFM TV. "We mustn't kid ourselves." France has the largest Muslim minority in the European Union, comprising roughly 8% of the population.

Father Jacques Hamel
A mourner holds a picture of Father Jacques Hamel during the funeral ceremony at the Cathedral in RouenJacky Naegelen/ Reuters
Father Jacques Hamel
Mourners gather in the rain near a giant screen outside the cathedral in RouenJacky Naegelen/ Reuters
Father Jacques Hamel
A mourner holds a leaflet with a picture of slain French parish priest Father Jacques Hamel during a funeral ceremonyJacky Naegelen/ Reuters
Father Jacques Hamel
Armed French police take position outside the cathedral in RouenJacky Naegelen/Reuters