French police drag priest out of church during protests

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published 05.08.2016 01:02

A group of people, including a priest, were forcibly removed from a church by French police after they refused to leave in protest against the demolition of Saint Rita's church in Paris. The group had barricaded themselves inside Saint Rita's church in a last-ditch effort to ward off the wrecking ball after a marathon tug-of-war with the owners.

The report said riot police were seen dragging several people, including the priest, out of the church, which angered Catholics and the far-right party National Front (FN) in the country. Police said the evacuation was completed without incident, but politicians from the Republican party said they had witnessed rough treatment of the group. Republican Deputy Secretary General Eric Ciotti accused France's Socialist government of being "without a soul and without bearings" for allowing the eviction to go ahead. Saint Rita, built in 1900, had been a sanctuary for Gallicans, traditionalist Catholics who profess to practice the faith as it existed in medieval times, celebrating mass in Latin, although they are not recognized by the Vatican. The church's owner, the Association of Catholic and Apostolic Chapels, had decided to replace the structure with a housing development, and it was shut in April 2015. But Abbot Guillaume de Tanouarn, who used to bless cats, dogs, birds and even camels on the first Sunday in November according to the Gallican rite, led the resistance against the demolition.

After the evacuation, around 20 activists remained outside the church, while the entrance was patrolled by private security guards and workmen who were boarding up the windows. The association obtained a building permit in March 2012, and the demolition was supposed to being in October 2015, but the bulldozers were called off because a group of squatters had occupied the church. The congregation of Saint Rita - the patron saint of lost causes - failed to raise the 3 million euros it would have needed to buy the church back. A court finally ruled on Jan. 6 that the association could expel the occupants. Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said that the church was not part of France's historical heritage and stressed that the association had taken the decision to destroy it.

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