France announces additional funding for church security after recent attacks

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has pledged extra funds to protect Roman Catholic churches after a wave of vandalism and desecration across the country.

“As minister of worship, my task is to protect places of worship; we are therefore increasing the means to equip them, in particular with video protection,” said Mr. Darmanin. “Today, an envelope of 4 million euros is offered to the Catholic Church if it wishes to accept it, independently of our law on the separation of Church and State.”

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

He indicated that criminal investigations were underway, and that a parliamentary team had also been instructed by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, to “analyze the causes and manifestations of anti-religious acts” and to submit “proposals supplementary protection”.

“We support the Catholics of our country after these unacceptable acts of vandalism,” Mr. Darmanin wrote on Twitter.

Church leaders have repeatedly called for better protection of Christian sites across Europe, amid growing complaints of vandalism, theft and desecration. The Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians believes these are most prevalent in France, where many incidents are reported each month.

In December, Mr Darmanin’s ministry reported a decrease in anti-Christian and anti-Semitic acts in 2021 – 1,209 were recorded between January and October, compared to 1,538 the previous year – but said anti-Muslim incidents had risen by 32%.

A spokesman for the French Episcopal Conference, Father Hugues de Woillemont, told Agence France-Presse that the Church was grateful for the funds offered to “counter acts that harm the faith”, but that it was also considered “very important to keep churches open”. ”.

The Diocese of Saint-Denis, whose 12th-century Gothic cathedral is the burial place of French monarchs, reports that a stained glass window and a sacristy door were smashed there, and a tabernacle was desecrated and emptied during the attack on Saint-Pierre, Bondy. A tabernacle and a sacristy had also been robbed and stripped at the Saint-Germain de Romainville church.

The daily RC The cross reported that a church was desecrated in Vitry-sur-Seine the same week, six statues of saints were destroyed in a church near Poitiers and relics of Saint John Paul II were stolen from the basilica in Paray- le-Monial.

In 2019, the European Parliament called on the institutions of the European Union to “reinforce their commitment to religious freedom” by strengthening the security of religious communities.

Martha J. Finley