A French bishop has denounced the “violence, cowardice and stupidity” of the “desecration” of a parish church in Tonnay-Charente, in the country’s central-west.

Driving the news

Bishop of La Rochelle-Saintes Georges Colomb decried at a Mass last Sunday the “aggression” and the “expression of hatred against Christ and his Church” that was the profanation of the church, reported La Croix.

Go deeper

Parishioner Marcel Pin discovered that the church of Saint-Etienne in Tonnay-Charente, in the Charente-Maritime department, had been vandalised as he was going about sacristan duties November 10.

Pin noticed that a statue had been destroyed and hosts scattered on the floor.

But investigating further, the parishioner found a broken tabernacle, a cross hung upside down and that a lunette – the container in which a large host is kept for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament – had been stolen.

Due to the destruction, Sunday Mass at Tonnay-Charente had to be moved to the neighbouring town of Cabariot.

Why it matters

“Nothing else had disappeared, the ciborium remained in place. This suggests that this was not a simple act of vandalism or theft, but a desecration”, lamented Bishop Colomb.

“They attacked the Blessed Sacrament, the presence of the body of Christ which is at the heart of our faith. It is more than an anticlerical act. It is truly anti-Christian”.

The parish priest of Tonnay-Charente, Father Evens Joseph, admitted he and his parishioners had been very shocked by the profanation, which Tuesday he reported to police.

The police have now closed the church until their investigation is complete.

I heard a lady tell me that she felt this as a stain on her personally”, said Joseph, a priest from Haiti who has been ministering in Tonny-Charente for two years.

“We need a reparation Mass, as if to symbolically cleanse this stain”.

That reparation Mass will be celebrated by Joseph Thursday, with help from La Rochelle-Saintes vicar general Father Bertrand Monnard.

What’s next

Bishop Colomb promised neither he nor the faithful would let themselves be intimidated by the attack.

“We will not close our churches in which believers come to pray”, the prelate pledged.

“Our tourist department also attracts many visitors to its magnificent Romanesque buildings. We do not have the financial means to install a guard for each one.

“We will look for ways to be a little more vigilant but we will leave our churches open”, the bishop said.

Next on Novena:

Elderly French priest found bashed to death had been accused of abuse of boys

Attacks on churches in France point to loss of sense of sacred, not Christianophobia