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France announces more funding for church security after recent attacks

04 February 2022

iStock

THE Interior Minister of France, Gérald Darmanin, has promised extra funds to protect Roman Catholic churches after a spate of vandalism and desecration across the country.

“As Minister for Cults, my task is to protect places of worship; so we are augmenting the means to equip them, especially with video protection,” Mr Darmanin said. “Today, an envelope with €4 million is being offered to the Catholic Church if it wishes to accept this, independently of our law on church-state separation.”

The minister made his pledge during a visit to the district of Seine-Saint-Denis, in northern Paris, where two RC churches were badly damaged in overnight attacks last month.

He said that criminal investigations were under way, and that a parliamentary team had also been asked by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, to “analyse the causes and manifestations of anti-religious acts” and submit “additional protective proposals”.

“We are supporting Catholics in our country after these unacceptable acts of vandalism,” Mr Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

Church leaders have repeatedly urged better protection for Christian sites across Europe, amid growing complaints of vandalism, robbery, and profanation. These are estimated by the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians to be most prevalent in France, where numerous incidents are reported every month.

In December, Mr Darmanin’s ministry reported a decrease in anti-Christian and anti-Semitic acts in 2021 — 1209 were registered between January and October, compared with 1538 the previous year — but said that anti-Muslim incidents had grown by 32 per cent.

A spokesman for the French Bishops’ Conference, Fr Hugues de Woillemont, told Agence France-Presse that the Church was grateful for the proposed funds to “counter acts which damage the faith”, but it was also considered “very important to keep churches open”.

The Saint-Denis diocese, whose 12th-century Gothic cathedral is the burial place of French monarchs, reported that a stained-glass window and sacristy door had been smashed there, and that a tabernacle had been profaned and emptied during the attack on Saint-Pierre, Bondy. A tabernacle and sacristy had also been broken into and stripped at the church of Saint-Germain, Romainville.

The RC daily La Croix reported that a church had been profaned at Vitry-sur-Seine the same week, six statues of saints had been destroyed at a church near Poitiers, and relics of St John Paul II had been stolen from the basilica at Paray-le-Monial.

In 2019, the European Parliament called on European Union institutions to “step up their commitment to religious freedom” by enhancing security for faith communities.

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