The faith of Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame, the French police officer who swapped places with hostage
On 24 March 2018, a terrorist entered a supermarket in Trèbes armed with a handgun, a hunting knife, and three homemade bombs. He shot two people dead and took others hostage. Police negotiated for release of the hostages, and Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame offered to take the place of the final one, a woman. Arnaud Beltrame left his mobile phone on so that police outside could monitor activity inside. After a three-hour stand-off, the terrorist stabbed and shot him and the GIGN operatives entered the supermarket and killed the assailant.
In the days before Holy Week, the media made little to nothing of what might have motivated Arnaud Beltrame to offer himself in exchange for another and ended up being killed in that person’s place (see, for example, here, here, and here).
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13)” were the words that the Diocese of the Armed Forces used to describe the actions of Arnaud Beltrame.
Beltrame was reared in a nonreligious family but, at age 33, he converted to Catholic Christianity, receiving the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation in 2008 after spending two years as a catechumen. In 2015, he made a pilgrimage to Basilica of Sainte-Anne d’Auray, “where he asked the Virgin Mary to help him to meet the woman of his life” and shortly afterwards, “he became friends with Marielle, whose faith is deep and discreet.” He had married his partner in a civil ceremony in August 2016, but they had planned a church wedding in June 2018 at the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus. Prior to the terrorist attack at Trèbes, Beltrame made a pilgrimage to Compostela.
On his deathbed, he received the “sacrament of marriage, and the sacrament of the sick“.