Father Jacques Hamel: The elderly priest murdered by Islamic State terrorists

Father Jacques Hamel still regularly officiated at mass in Saint Etienne Credit: Ina Societe

Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest who was brutally murdered by men claiming to be soldiers of so-called Islamic State, has been described as a modest man who was loved by the local community.

Despite having officially retired more than a decade ago, the 85-year-old still acted as an assistant priest at the church in Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, regularly standing in for parish priest Father Auguste Moanda-Phuati when he was busy.

On Tuesday he was officiating mass when two men broke in to the church and took him and four others hostage, before slitting his throat.

Since then, a picture has emerged of a kindly old man who had dedicated his life to his parishioners.

Moanda-Phuati, speaking to the French newspaper Le Figaro, described Hamel as modest and poplar with the congregation.

"We benefited greatly from his experience and wisdom in the parish of Saint Etienne," he told the paper.

Father Jacques Hamel was well loved by the local community Credit: Reuters

Eulalie Garcia, who works in a beauty parlour on the same road as the church and was taught the catechism by Hamel as a young girl, said: "My family has lived here for 35 years and we have always known him.

"He was someone who was treasured by the community. He was very discreet and didn't like to draw attention to himself."

Claude-Albert Seguin, who lives near the church, told the Associated Press that Hamel was a "kind man" who was "very loved in the community".

According to the parish website, Father Hamel was born in the Rouen area in 1930 and was ordained in 1958.

In 2008, he celebrated his jubilee - 50 years in the priesthood.

Father Aimé-Rémi Mputu Amba, the pastor of another local parish, Sotteville-lès-Rouen, said of Hamel: "Despite his advanced age, he was still committed to parish life.

"I often told him, jokingly 'Jacques, you getting on a bit, it's time for you to retire'. To which he would replied, laughing, 'Have you've seen a retired pastor? I will work until my last breath'."

There have been calls for Hamel to be put on a fast-track to sainthood - soon after his murder was reported, the hashtag #santosubito - meaning "make him a saint immediately" - was circulating on Twitter.