A Rwandan immigrant on Monday reported to French police that he had murdered a Catholic priest who gave him shelter while he awaited possible trial over a fire at a cathedral in 2020.
The 40-year-old surrendered himself in the mid-morning, official source familiar with the investigation said.
Shortly afterwards, police found the priest’s body in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, in the Vendee region.
Sen. Bruno Retailleau, who represents the Vendee region, identified the victim as Olivier Maire, 60, head of the Montfortain Missionary Order at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre.
France’s immigration authorities, however, said it had handed the Rwandan national an expulsion order in 2019, but he remained in the country.
Prosecutors alleged that in July 2020 he set fire to Nantes cathedral adding that the blaze engulfed the inside of the 15th-century cathedral, destroying a grand organ, stained-glass windows and a painting.
However, Local prosecutors leading the investigation are indicating that the killing is not being treated as an act of terrorism.
BFM TV reported that the Rwandan had received treatment in a psychiatric hospital in July 2020.
Marine Le Pen, far-right leader tweeted that “so in France you can be an illegal immigrant, torch Nantes cathedral, never be expelled and reoffend by murdering a priest.
“What’s happening in our country is unprecedented: the total failure of the state.’’
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter “all my support to Catholics in our country after the dramatic killing of a priest in the Vendee. I’m headed there.’’
Observers said the killing would raise pressure on President Emmanuel Macron over his security and immigration policy, eight months out from a presidential election that would see his biggest challenge come from the far-right. (Reuters/NAN)