The doors of a Gothic revival church in the 15th Arrondissement of Paris were barricaded with pews this morning in an attempt to prevent the demolition of the building to make way for a car park and apartment building. Protestors including a Catholic priest and the local mayor were abused by riot police clearing the building ready for the bulldozers after the religious association which owns it decided to redevelop the site.
Shocking footage shot from within the church of Sainte-Rita this morning shows the congregation gathered around the altar as the priest, Father Jean-François Billot celebrated Mass in his full robes and chasuble with the assistance of servers. Over the course of the 40-minute video, the singing of songs of prayer became louder as the black-clad riot police smashed down the 19th-century wooden doors and cleared the pews, before carrying members of the congregation and protest out to the street.
Photographs taken during the eviction show Fr. Billot throwing his arms in the air at the altar before being apparently dragged along the ground by police. Others show a young boy dressed in his cassock and surplice being marched down the aisle and out of the church by a riot officer and a man in civilian clothes.
Despite the violence caught on camera, Paris police released a statement this morning which said: “Thirty people took up position inside the building to oppose the recovery of the premises. Their removal was completed without incident”.
On the metal gates themselves, graffiti in French read: “In France, we kill priests and raze churches”, a sardonic reference to the murder of Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel by Islamist killers who chanted Islamic State slogans last month. The Requiem Mass for the slain clergyman was held just 24 hours before riot police violently cleared the 15th Arrondissement Catholic church.
Responding to comments by the Pope this week that he would not discuss Muslim violence because Catholics could be violent too, one observer who witnessed today’s events tweeted images of a priest and the congregation being manhandled by police officers in Paris directly at the Pope remarking “now let’s talk about ‘Catholic Violence’ @pontifex”. The same user tweeted a picture of a choirboy being confronted by police at the church, with the caption “weak against Salafists, strong against the children of the choir”.
SOURCE: OLIVER JJ LANE