“France is not a random space… fifteen centuries of history and geography determined its personality. Inscribed in the depths of our landscape, the churches, the cathedrals and other places of pilgrimage give meaning and form to our patriotism. Let us demand our civil authorities to respect it”. Two years ago, the French journalist Denis Tillinac promoted this appeal, signed by dozens of French personalities, after some French imams requested the conversion of abandoned churches into mosques.
A year later, terrorists who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State assaulted the Catholic parishioners in the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, murdering an elderly priest, Father Jacques Hamel, at the foot of the altar. An outpouring of great emotion followed the most serious attack on a Christian symbol in Europe since the Second World War.
After that attack, the French authorities prevented many Islamist plots against the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Last June, police shot a Muslim man outside the cathedral after he tried to attack them with a hammer. Another terror cell of French women, guided by Islamic State commanders in Syria, had previously been foiled before they could attack Notre Dame. France’s most famous Catholic house of worship is a prime target for the jihadists. A t the same time, France has been dismissing the religious and cultural heritage of France’s Catholic patrimony, which, in a time of religious clashes and revival, should instead be protected as treasures and sources of strength.
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