Local officials and religious groups condemned the series of attacks against churches in France. To date, there are nearly a dozen incidents of hostility in Catholic churches and Christian monuments across the country and authorities have not yet said the attacks are related, reports Catholic news website, La Croix International.
The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe released a new report on February 13, 2019 documenting a string of ‘anti-Christian’ hostility in France. According to the organization, there have been at least 10 incidents of vandalism and desecration of churches in February alone.
In our secular Republic, places of worship are respected. Such acts shock me and must be unanimously condemned. —Édouard Philippe, Prime Minister of France
One of the earliest attacks happened February 4 at Houilles, Yvelines where vandals smashed a religious statue in St. Nicholas Catholic Church. The pastor of the parish, Fr. Etienne Maroteaux, revealed that it was not the first time the church had been vandalized. He disclosed that the church was already attacked two weeks prior.
On February 5, someone set the altar on fire at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur, in south-central France. Fortunately, only the altar cloth and the Nativity scene were burnt, but a cross was thrown to the ground and the arm of the crucified Christ was twisted. Lavaur city mayor, Bernard Carayon, said, “God will forgive. Not me.”
Jean Terlier, deputy of the district, said, “I strongly condemn the vandalism of Lavaur Cathedral and I share the outrage aroused by this intolerable act.”
On February 9, several attacks occurred in Nîmes, Lavaur, Houilles and Dijon.
Ellen Fantini, executive director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, claimed that these incidents of hostility are not given the right amount of importance by the media and the government.
“While the government recognizes Christians and Christian sites are being targeted, they don’t seem high on the agenda when it comes to the political will to provide protection,” Fantini said.
Prime Minister of France Édouard Philippe denounced the perverse acts and will meet with the country’s bishops to discuss the incidents. In a statement via Twitter, the PM said, “In one week, in France, 5 degraded churches. In our secular Republic, places of worship are respected. Such acts shock me and must be unanimously condemned. I will tell the bishops of France at the meeting of the forum of dialogue with the Catholic Church.”