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PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Attacks on Catholic churches in France are intensifying, despite President Emmanuel Macron's pledge to protect them.
The shooting death of a Muslim teen outside Paris by police on June 27 has ignited rioting across the country. Angry mobs have blockaded roads, set cars ablaze, ransacked hundreds of banks, looted stores and destroyed a major city's largest library. Tens of thousands of police, hundreds now injured, have been deployed to deal with the situation.
Churches have suffered escalating attacks, some torched and/or vandalized, and remain unprotected and vulnerable. Authorities and media outlets have been reluctant to identify the causes of the attacks and/or the perpetrators.
Investigative journalist Amy Mek tweeted this observation on July 1:
Attacks on Churches are the norm in France; two Churches a day are vandalized — they are being burned, demolished, and abandoned, and their adherents are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Priests are under constant threat. At what point will France's open border politicians be held responsible?
On Sunday morning, July 9, the 12th-century St. Georges Church in Descartes, a town in central France, caught fire. The roof was completely destroyed, and the bell tower collapsed. The church had been the last place of Catholic worship in the town. French media said the roof was ignited "probably due to a storm."
FRANCE— Catholic Arena (@CatholicArena) July 8, 2023
All that remains of the 16th century Catholic Church Notre Dame Drosnay after it was burnt to the ground yesterday.
French churches are being destroyed every week despite a promise by Macron at Mont St Michel last month to protect them. pic.twitter.com/8aQmgSAeKa
Two days earlier, on July 7, the historic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in the town of Drosnay in northeastern France burnt to the ground.
The famous 16th-century church, which was originally built beside a castle moat, was noted for its large double-sided roof that covered the scope of its structure. The cause of the fire is being reported as "unknown."
On July 1, in Marseille, rioters vandalized an evangelical church, destroying the prayer room and leaving doors and windows broken and shattered. The vandals graffitied these words on the walls: "The last prophet is Mohamed" and "Jesus is not God."
Attacks are not limited to physical structures. On the night of June 29, Fr. Francis Pelle, 79, was beaten and reportedly stripped and left unconscious on the streets of Saint-Étienne in eastern-central France. The assailants stole his wallet and cell phone. Pelle was reportedly out walking to check on the safety of nuns at a nearby convent.
Historic church, Eglise Notre Dame Drosnay, has burned to the ground in France. This Friday, July 7th, in the village of Drosnay, in the department of Marne, inhabitants were left in shock after the 16th-century, timber-framed church was destroyed. Cause of fire unknown. pic.twitter.com/uKWEdynSLC— D. Scott @eclipsethis2003 (@eclipsethis2003) July 8, 2023
The next day, the Catholic bishops of the diocese issued a statement underplaying the incident. They stated the priest never lost consciousness and went to work the next day. They added that "the attack on Fr. Palle [sic] does not appear to be linked to his condition as a religious priest, and it did not take place within the framework of the violent events of recent days."
Although intensifying, attacks on the Church in France are not new. Two years ago, the president of the Observatory of Religious Heritage in Paris, Edouard de Lamaze, sounded the alarm about the steady eradication of religious buildings in France. According to the president at the time, one religious building was disappearing in France every two weeks.
Lamaze's observations came after a fire destroyed the 16th-century Church of St. Pierre in Romilly-la-Puthenaye, Normandy. The fire took place on April 15, 2021, two years after the fire that devastated the beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Both conflagrations have been deemed "accidental."
Fifty years ago, in the 1970s, French writer and journalist Michel de Saint Pierre, also sounded the alarm. He published a book called Churches in Ruin, Church in Peril in which he foresaw the physical and spiritual decline of the Church's eldest daughter.
Last month, Macron announced a new initiative to safeguard churches in France. He ordered "targeted measures," including a nationwide "dedicated subscription" to encourage tax-deductible public donations. A comparable strategy was used to fund the rebuilding of Notre-Dame in Paris.
The funding comes with a hitch, however: Local churches will have to share the use of church grounds and structures with non-religious groups.
Many see Macron's plan as shortsighted. It says what the president, who was baptized Catholic, plans to do, but it does not address who is destroying the churches or why. Many also criticize the plan as a way to reduce France's Catholic churches to museums, i.e., into historical buildings sans the sacred significance of the Catholic faith.