MONTREAL — A week after he was stabbed while delivering morning mass, a Montreal priest was back at the altar Friday.
Rev. Claude Grou said afterwards he was somewhat concerned but happy to have resumed his duties, welcomed by the applause of 100 worshippers on hand at St. Joseph's Oratory.
"I did not know what my reaction would be. I felt strong. I did not feel particularly nervous," Grou, 77, the oratory's rector, told reporters.
"This morning, the fact that I was surrounded by a group of my confreres who were with me, and when I came in and people applauded, I felt strong enough .... My main concern was to do the celebration the best that I could."
The Montreal priest was stabbed March 22 by a 26-year-old man during morning mass, which was being streamed live on the internet.
The accused, Vlad Cristian Eremia, faces charges of attempted murder and assault with a weapon and was sent to a psychiatric hospital this week for evaluation. He returns to court on April 26.
Grou thanked the parishioners who came to his aid and shielded him from the attacker following the stabbing. He said he was recovering reasonably well from minor injuries.
Grou said previously that he holds no resentment toward Eremia and hopes he gets the help he needs. While he is convinced the assault did not result from personal animosity, he said Friday forgiveness may take some time.
"Forgiveness is a long process between two people. We are at the beginning of a process," Grou said. "I'm an open person. I think these are important values, but I cannot say what form it can take at this moment."
In his homily, Grou spoke of the importance of getting back to basics, a message inspired by the attack.
"When we come back after an event like this, we say to ourselves: What is important? What is essential in our lives? Life is a precious gift and a gift that can disappear. For a very short time, I thought maybe it was the end for me," he said.
Grou said he didn't consider it unusual when a man approached the altar, because people often come to pray near the statue of Virgin Mary or the altar of St. Joseph. But when the man drew closer and entered the sanctuary, Grou tried to get away.
Even after he was stabbed, Grou said he didn't immediately realize he was wounded and even thought he could continue the mass once the incident was over.
As for those concerned about security, Grou said he wants the landmark church to remain a peaceful, welcoming place.
"The oratory is a place where people are always welcome, where people can come and meet each other and, in their prayer, meet the Lord," Grou said. "We want to keep this spirit of openness alive ... so people can feel safe in this place."
Ugo Giguere, The Canadian Press