Police are questioning a man after he reportedly admitted to killing a priest who had offered him a house while awaiting the arson trial.
The suspect entered a gendarmerie in Vendée, western France, on Monday morning and allegedly told officers that he had killed the clergyman, the head of a Catholic religious order.
Officers from the Mortagne-sur-Sèvre police station went to the address indicated by the suspect and found the body of Father Olivier Maire.
The arrested man, 40, was reportedly a volunteer church guardian from Rwanda awaiting trial after being accused of deliberately setting Nantes cathedral on fire in July last year.
After the fire, the man was detained but released on bail two months ago under various conditions of release. Father Maire, 60, head of the Missionary Order of Montfortain in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre he had offered him a home while he awaited his appearance in court.
Before the Nantes fire, the man had been denied permission to stay in France and was subject to an expulsion order. His arrest for the arson meant that the warrant was put on hold during the arson legal process.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted that he was heading to Vendée.
Bruno Retailleau, head of the opposition right Les Républicains, paid tribute to the priest.
“His death is a testament to the goodness of this priest whom he knew well and whose depth of faith he had come to appreciate. His death is a great loss, ”Retailleau tweeted along with a photo of the priest.
The murder came five years after two followers of the Islamic State killed Father Jâcques Hamel in his church in Normandy in July 2016.
Police did not give details of how the priest was killed, but said there was no suggestion at the moment that it was related to terrorism.
Father Santino Brembilla, superior general of the Montfortain Missionary Order and friend of the murdered priest, told BFMV that he was a man of “deep spirituality” and a reference for the religious community of Montfortain.
“He was always open to people who needed help and support,” said Brembilla.
“It is a tragedy for us because we have lost a person of great value to our Montfortain community. He was a deeply spiritual man. This is a human tragedy. “