The police officer who died after taking the place of a hostage in France was a practising Catholic who had “experienced a genuine conversion”, according to a priest who knew him.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame died on Saturday after volunteering to replace a female hostage during a terrorist attack on a supermarket in Trèbes, southern France, on Friday.

He was shot in the neck by jihadist Radouane Lakdim before police entered the supermarket and killed the Moroccan-born French national.

Fr Dominique Arz, national chaplain of the gendarmerie, told the French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne: “It turns out that the lieutenant-colonel was a practising Catholic. The fact is that he did not hide his faith, and that he radiated it, he bore witness to it. We can say that his act of self-offering is consistent with what he believed. He served his country to the very end, and bore witness to his faith to the very end.”

Beltrame was planning to get married in June. Fr Jean-Baptiste, one of the Canons Regular of the Mother of God of Lagrasse Abbey, said in a statement, translated by Christopher Gillibrand: “After a pilgrimage to Sainte-Anne-d’Auray in 2015, where he asked the Virgin Mary to help him to meet the woman of his life, he became friends with Marielle.”

The couple “regularly came to the abbey to participate in Masses, services and teachings, especially to a group of ‘foyers’, Notre Dame de Cana”.

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