Yesterday afternoon I read an impressive document. It was the testimony of a Canon who was the friend of Arnaud Beltrame, the Lieutenant-Colonel who died after offering himself in exchange for the hostages in the Islamic terrorist attack in Trèbes, France. From what I have read, I believe that the diocese where this French hero lived – another Salvo D’Acquisto, another Maximilian Kolbe – ought to open the cause for him to be declared a saint “per testimonium caritatis heroicis” – “for a witness of heroic charity.” Nothing obligated Arnaud Beltrame to carry out the action which he did, only a truly heroic courage motivated by his faith. But read on below:
Testimony of a Canon of the Abbey of Lagrasse (Aude, France) given on the day of Beltrame’s death, 24 March 2018.
It was because of a meeting during a visit to our abbey, which is an historic monument, that I made the acquaintance of Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame and of Marielle, to whom he was civilly married on August 27, 2016. We quickly became friends and he asked me to prepare them for a marriage in the Church, which was to have been celebrated near Vannes next June 9. We had several meetings to discuss the foundations of married life over the course of two years. Last December 16 I blessed their house and we filled out the canonical forms for their marriage. The beautiful declaration of intent of Arnaud was given to me just four days before his heroic death.
This young couple came regularly to Mass at the abbey, to other events and teachings, in particular with a faith group called Our Lady of Cana. They were part of the Narbonne team, and they came as usual last Sunday. Intelligent, athletic, easy-going, and enthralling, Arnaud spoke freely of his conversion. He was born in a family that practiced its faith only a little. In 2008 he underwent a true conversion, when he was 33 years old. He received his First Communion and Confirmation in 2010 after two years of catechumenate. After a pilgrimage to Saint Anne d’Auray in 2015, where he asked the Virgin Mary to help him to meet the woman of his life, he became close to Marielle, whose faith is profound and discreet. Their engagement was celebrated at Easter 2016 in the Breton abbey of Timadeuc. Passionate for the gendarmes (French police), he always nourished a great love for France, her greatness, her history, her Christian roots, which he rediscovered during his conversion.
Offering himself in place of the hostages, he was probably moved by the passion of his official heroism, because for him, to be a gendarme meant to protect. But he knew the great risk he was taking. He also knew of the promise of a church marriage which he had made to Marielle, who was already civilly his wife and whom he loved tenderly, as many testify. And so? Did he have the right to take such a risk? It seems to me that only his faith can explain the folly of this sacrifice which today everyone is admiring. He knew, as Jesus said to us, that, “There is no greater love that to give one’s life for one’s friends. He knew that his life belonged to Marielle, but it also belonged to God, to France, and to his brothers and sisters who were in danger of death. I believe that only a Christian faith moved by charity could ask for this superhuman sacrifice.
The Canon was able to be with Arnaud in the hospital on the night of March 23. He was alive but unconscious. He gave him the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and the Apostolic Blessing in danger of death. Marielle prayed with him the liturgical forms of the rite.
Originally published at MarcoTosatti.com. Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino and reprinted with permission.
Marco Tosatti is a renowned Italian journalist and Vatican expert. He has been covering the Holy See since 1981. His written work appears in La Stampa and La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. He is the author of several books, including The Prophecy of Fatima and Investigation of the Holy Shroud. He blogs at Marcotosatti.com.