A nun at prayer (stock)

French priest cries Christianophobia after nun told to shed habit for retirement home

A French priest has raised the alarm of “Christianophobia” after a nun was told she would have to stop wearing her habit if she wanted to live at a State-run retirement home.

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The Connexion reported Tuesday on the case of a sister, in her seventies, who sought to return in her retirement to her home town of Vesoul, in the east of France, after residing in a convent in the Drôme.

The religious applied for a place in a nursing home in Vesoul through the local community authority, the Centre Communal d’Action Sociale (CCAS).

She specifically chose a place with a communal feel and shared meals, after having become accustomed to company in her religious life.

After several months’ wait – during which she lived in the Vesoul vicarge – the nun was eventually granted her place at the home.

But in their acceptance letter, the retirement home authorities told the sister that she would have to shed her habit if she wanted to live there, and could only wear a small cross necklace as a sign of her faith.

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“Residents may have preferences and convictions, and these must be respected”, the home authorities set out.

However, they added that “out of respect for secularism, all ostentatious signs of belonging to a religious community cannot be accepted, with a view to maintaining the peace for everyone”.

The stipulation meant that the nun refused the offer of a place at the home.

Though she found a new house with the help of the Vesoul parish, the sister is said to be unhappy with her arrangements, given that she now lives alone, and shops, cooks and eats by herself.

Why it matters

In a parish newsletter, the parish priest of Vesoul lamented the nun’s situation, and said it was a show of anti-Christian discrimination.

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“They are beating us about the head with their secularist principles, which people do not understand”, the priest decried.

“I do not see how a habit or a hijab can be damaging, because it is not a sign of submission, but of consecration”.

But the CCAS told France Bleu Besançon that the controversy was due to the nun refusing “to follow the housing rules, which are the same for everyone”.

Secularism – or laïcité in French – is a well-established practice in France, and in practice means the strict separation of religion from all facets of public life in the country.

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