France opens investigation into alleged cover-up of police failure in priest's 2016 murder

The French prosecutor's office has launched an investigation into an alleged cover-up by police involving a 2016 case where an Islamic extremist murdered a priest in the middle of Mass at a church in Normandy.

(REUTERS / Charly Triballeau / Pool)A picture of slain French parish priest Father Jacques Hamel is seen during a funeral service at the Cathedral in Rouen, France, August 2, 2016.

According to a judicial official, the preliminary investigation stemmed from concerns that a police intelligence note had been altered to hide the authorities' failure to intervene against extremist Adel Kermiche. Investigative publication Mediapart revealed that the note, which was allegedly post-dated, would have been instrumental in preventing the murder of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel in the village of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, The National relayed.

Father Hamel was killed when two 19-year-old terrorists slit his throat in the middle of a Mass. The pair was fatally shot by police as they left the church. The Islamic State took responsibility for the priest's death.

The origin of the note, the office of the Paris police chief, issued a statement denying what Mediapart said. The statement added that soon after Hamel's murder, the officer who wrote the note "immediately made the link with the individual he had identified."

In addition, the statement said the Paris police intelligence arm had written another note on July 26, 2016, the day that the church was attacked. The initial note was dated July 22, but Mediapart said it was actually dated July 21.

In April last year, the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, announced that their diocese had launched the canonization Cause of Fr. Hamel. While a five-year waiting period is required for the Cause to begin, Pope Francis has already allowed this particular case to proceed, The Catholic Herald reported.

During a Mass dedicated to Fr. Hamel, Pope Francis hailed the slain priest as a martyr. In his homily, the pontiff said the French priest was part of the chain of Christian martyrs who chose not to deny Jesus Christ rather than commit apostasy.