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France: remembering the hero policeman. Father Jean-Baptiste, “I could not marry him because he was unconscious”

Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, who swapped himself for a hostage in a terrorist siege at a supermarket in Trèbes, France, on Friday 24 March, “was probably moved by passion”, because “for him, being a policeman meant protecting. He knew the risk he was taking. And he knew he had promised Marielle he would marry her in a religious ceremony”. Father Jean-Baptiste, a monk from the Lagrasse Abbey (Aude), said this after Arnaud Beltrame’s death. The website of the diocese of Carcassonne published his account. He had met the lieutenant colonel and his wife Marielle, who got civilly married in August 2016, during one of their visits to the Abbey. They became friends, and the pair asked Father Jean-Baptiste to prepare them for the religious wedding that was scheduled for 9 June. “We spent many hours working on the basics of married life”; “Arnaud’s beautiful declaration of intention reached me 4 days before his heroic death”. According to Fr. Jean-Baptiste, Arnaud was “intelligent, sporty, voluble, and lively”; he converted in 2008, aged almost 33, and “received his First Holy Communion and Confirmation in 2010, after 2 years of catechumenate”. In 2015, he met Marielle, whose “faith was deep and discreet”. Arnaud was passionate about the police; he has always had a passion for France, its grandeur, its history, and its Christian roots which he rediscovered with his conversion. “It seems to me that only his faith can explain the madness of his sacrifice”, Father Jean-Baptiste said. “He knew that although his life had begun to belong to Marielle, it also belonged to God, to France, to his brothers and sisters in danger of death. I believe that only a Christian faith animated by charity could ask for this superhuman sacrifice”. Fr. Jean-Baptiste accompanied Arnaud in his last hours, and administered to him the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. “I could not marry him, as an article awkwardly said, because he was unconscious”.

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