Homage to Abel Chennouf
One of the soldiers killed in Montauban was neither Arab, nor Muslim, but Kabyle and Catholic. A reader sent the following homily delivered by the chaplain of the 17th RGP, Christian Venard, at the funeral services for corporal Abel Chennouf. Read the original French text at Riposte-Catholique.
Abel, my parachutist comrade, my brother, one week ago, to the day and almost to the hour, I held your hand, still warm from the life that an assassin had just taken from you. I held your hand and prayed for you, thinking about your mother and commending you to the heavenly mother, the Virgin Mary. I did not yet know Caroline, but if I had, I would have spoken for her also, and for the baby you are expecting. Then I leaned over your comrade Mohamed Legouad that the remarkable emergency medical teams were keeping alive. Finally, I witnessed the departure for the hospital of Loïc Liber, who at this very moment is fighting for his life, surrounded by his mother and father. What suffering! What incomprehension! But also, what solidarity, support, homages and, for us Christians, faith (as the bishop reminded us yesterday in Montauban cathedral) and hope, despite all!
Two thousand seven hundred years ago, in Rome, in the heart of the forum, symbol and center of life of the city, a chasm opened up. The oracle who was consulted issued this response: to close up this chasm, Rome had to throw into it what was most precious to her. Everyone was still wondering what could be the most precious thing, when a young horseman, a young soldier, Curtius, threw himself and his horse into the chasm which immediately closed up. Yes, the most precious thing Rome had was a young soldier, defender of the city.
The terrorist criminal who perpetrated the actions that cost you your life, Abel, attempted to open a chasm. The price to pay to close it is of course infinitely too dear; but, my friend Abel, you have become, like Curtius, a symbol of what our country, France, possesses that is most precious. And from now on, that is how you appear to us: a young corporal parachutist, who died for France, in a terrorist attack that sought to bring down our Fatherland.
Abel, I want to go even further. It's because you were wearing the French uniform, because you were proud of your red beret, that this criminal targeted you. What this murderer could not know is all that you represent today for our country. Born into a family both Alsatian (with all that this region conjures up of suffering linked to two world conflicts) and Kabyle (how can we not evoke the painful events in Algeria), your family chose France with (and I repeat the very words of you dear father), with all her traditions, including her most profound roots which are Christian. How could we not see, my friend Abel, in such an accumulation of symbols, what we have that is most precious, this capacity that our French Fatherland possesses to take into her bosom all those who want to become her children.
At the moment when we lay you in the earth, in this earth formed by the bones of our fathers (that too is the Fatherland), Abel, with all your family, your friends, your comrade parachutists, I pledge that we will support Caroline and your child. That we will be present by their side. Now, it is to God that we commend you, through the Catholic rites that accompany our deceased. We know that you live beside the Father. You have rejoined Jesus, this God who became Man, this innocent who died because of the evil and the violence that too often inhabit the hearts of men. Your sacrifice is enveloped in that of the Christ Jesus. Finding you last Thursday, lying on the ground of Montauban, taking your hand and seeing that blood so red and so pure flow from your wounds, I commended to the Lord of Life, this life that was flowing out of you. And if no tear fell from my eyes, like so many of your comrades, it was my heart that cried over all violence done to innocents on this poor earth. And it was to the Innocent One who shed his Blood to reconcile us with his Father, who shed his own Blood as ransom for all violence, that I commended your beautiful soul.
Abel, French of Alsatian and Kabyle origin, Catholic by choice, parachutist in the service of France, may our great patron saint, Saint Michael the Archangel welcome you and lead you to the bosom of the Father, with the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thanks to zazie.