Paris, France, Feb 12, 2022 / 04:10 am (CNA).
More than 800 anti-Christian incidents were reported in France in 2021.
The provisional figures were announced on Feb. 10 as part of an ongoing study of anti-religious acts in the Western European country, which has a population of 67 million people.
Investigators have so far identified a total of 1,659 anti-religious acts last year, with 857 relating to Christianity, 589 to Judaism, and 213 to Islam.
The statistics were presented by the ministerial mission on anti-religious acts following an initial assessment last December by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, reported the French Catholic daily La Croix.
Prime Minister Jean Castex has asked two members of the French parliament, Isabelle Florennes and Ludovic Mendes, to investigate anti-religious incidents. They are expected to submit their final report in March, ahead of the French presidential election, after conducting hearings and field trips.
A 2019 survey found that 48% of the French population identified as Catholic, 4% as Muslim, and 1% as Jewish, with 34% describing themselves as having no religion. But other studies suggest the percentage of Muslims is higher.
France is sometimes described as the “eldest daughter of the Church” because the Frankish King Clovis I embraced Catholicism in the year 496.
Last year witnessed two widely reported incidents concerning Catholics. In August 2021, the Catholic priest Father Olivier Maire was murdered in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, a commune in the Vendée department in western France.
In December 2021, Catholics taking part in a Marian procession in the western suburbs of Paris were subjected to threats.
France has witnessed numerous terrorist attacks in recent years. Some have specifically targeted Catholics.
In 2016, Father Jacques Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State during Mass at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in northern France.
An Islamist killed three people at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice in southeastern France in 2020.
France’s Interior Ministry recorded 996 anti-Christian acts in 2019 — an average of 2.7 per day.
Gérald Darmanin suggested in December that there was a 17.2% decrease in anti-religious acts in 2021 compared to 2019.
In January, he said that incidents related to the Catholic Church fell by 20% in 2021.
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