Rwandan Immigrant Who Set Fire to Nantes Cathedral in France Murders Catholic Priest

A man facing criminal charges for burning down a cathedral in western France last summer was arrested on Monday, for allegedly killing a Catholic priest.

The body of Olivier Maire, head of the Montfortain Missionary Order, was found in the village of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in the Vendée area on Monday morning. The issue has evoked a fierce political debate over migration laws after reports identified the suspect as an undocumented immigrant who had faced expulsion from the country.

Sky News reported that the Rwandan national had been ordered to be expelled from the country in 2019.

Dramatic Assassination

Meanwhile, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin described the killing of the priest as 'dramatic assassination'.

According to a local French newspaper, the suspect, Abayisenga, belonged to the Hutu ethnic group, whose leaders led the massacres of most ethnic Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The members of his family suffered retaliation and had to flee after the transfer of the country's power to the Tutsis in the years following the end of the genocide. Abayisenga's subsequent appeal was rejected, leading to orders to leave France.

Representational Picture Wikimedia Commons

Father Maire welcomed Abayisenga to the residence of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre about two months ago, said Father Paul. Sister Dorothee Harushinana told Reuters news agency that the priest was close to the people and anyone could always call on him.

Nantes Cathedral Fire
The fire that broke out at the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Nantes, France on July 18. Twitter

Macron Offers Tribute

French reports state that the suspect, who used to work as a volunteer warden at the Nantes cathedral, was involved in the fire at the cathedral in July 2020. He was detained until May this year and later transferred to a psychiatric hospital, from where he was welcomed by Father Maire into his church.

French President Emmanuel Macron offered tribute to Maire and praised his love and generosity.

Main opposition leader Marine Le Pen said the incident proved that the government was not acting on illegal immigration. "You can be an illegal migrant, set fire to a cathedral, not be expelled and then reoffend by murdering a priest," she said, according to France24.