France Increasing Secularization: Historic Churches to Be Sold or Demolished

“Like other Western countries, France is faced with the question of the future of its religious heritage due to the increasing secularization of society.”

Saint-Pierre-des-Cuisines church transformed into an auditorium. Photo: Wikipedia

Newsroom (July 31, 2022 4:15 PM, Gaudium Press) The French Senate’s Culture Commission has warned that several historic churches, many from the Middle Ages, will have to be sold or demolished unless government officials allocate resources to maintain them.

“Like other Western countries, France is faced with the question of the future of its religious heritage due to the increasing secularization of society. As true commons, these buildings have value not only spiritually, but also historically, culturally, artistically and architecturally. They structure landscapes, define territorial identities and provide vectors for transmitting local and national memory, as well as contributing to the quality of the living environment,” the French Senate report pointed out.

Senators Pierre Ouzoulias and Anne Ventalon wrote the report “following requests from mayors upset at the degradation of their religious heritage,” unable to meet maintenance obligations under the 1905 law of separation of church and state. So the senators put forward recommendations to restore or save France’s 100,000 religious sites.

Catholic churches in France were legally declared state property more than a century ago, requiring local governments to maintain them at public expense, allowing their use by the masses.

The report said that more than 40,000 sites predate the 20th century, with 15,000 protected as historical monuments, but that many lack proper maintenance, especially in rural areas.

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At least 500 churches are permanently closed for any religious functions, the report indicates, while up to 5,000 would have to be sold or demolished for risk of collapse by 2030.

“The risk is less that these buildings will pass into private ownership than that they will no longer be properly used and maintained to the point of making their demolition inevitable,” the report pointed out.

Transforming religious buildings

With church attendance falling and many of the country’s 36,000 parishes without resident priests, local government officials have repeatedly complained that the requirement to maintain churches imposes impossible financial burdens.

Among its nine recommendations, the report called for a comprehensive national inventory identifying churches of special interest, measures to prevent illegal trafficking in religious objects, and efforts to combat a “general indifference” through the “resocialization” of places of worship.

According to the report, the future of religious heritage depends largely on its social utility. “Only by allowing these buildings to become meaningful and useful again for a large part of the population can the preservation of religious heritage be guaranteed.”

“Transforming religious buildings into ‘community houses’ does not contradict their religious vocation, but means a return to the sources. Until the French Revolution, religious and human activities coexisted inside churches,” the report explains.

Indeed, the former church of Saint-Pierre-des-Cuisines in Toulouse, classified as a Historic Monument in 1977, and the oldest church in southwestern France, now houses a 400-seat auditorium for the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Toulouse.

Unfortunately, when spiritual decay begins, religious monuments no longer have a supernatural connotation but are restricted only to practical aspects. In this way, we can only expect the emergence of an atheistic nation, erasing even the deepest part of its religious roots.

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How long will God allow them to desecrate His temples?

With information from UCAnews.

Compiled by Zephania Gangl

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