Police tape at a crime scene in a file photo. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
PARIS, France—A priest was killed Monday in a small town in western France, and the suspect is a man he had housed for months, a local religious leader said.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed the killing, adding that he was heading to the Vendee region after the “dramatic assassination.”
Full details of the killing, reportedly in the town of Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre, were not immediately available.
The French press, citing police, reported that a man turned himself in, saying that he had killed a cleric Monday morning. French media said the suspect was the man under judicial control for the fire at the 15th-century Nantes cathedral in July 2020, which destroyed the organ and shattered stain glass windows.
A conservative senator for the Vendee region, Bruno Retailleau, said he knew the slain priest and identified him as “Father Olivier Maire,” a superior in the Montfort order.
A church volunteer from Rwanda seeking political asylum admitted he had set three fires. He had been tasked with locking up the cathedral. He was not imprisoned while that investigation moves forward but must report to police regularly. Under the terms of his judicial control, he was lodged by the religious community in the locale where the priest was killed, BFMTV reported, citing law enforcement officials.
The head of the religious community of Montfort, Santino Brambilla, confirmed to BFMTV that the slain priest had housed the suspect who killed him for several months.
“This is a human drama, but the suffering is great,” Brambilla said.
There was no immediate indication that the slaying was linked to terrorism, like the 2016 killing of Rev. Jacques Hamel as he said Mass in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, outside Rouen. ISIS claimed responsibility for that slaying.
Last October, a sacristan and two faithful were knifed to death inside the basilica in Nice, attributed to an Islamist extremist.