PARIS — In recent weeks, Catholics in France and Belgium — countries still recovering from brutal ISIS attacks — have been hit with numerous acts of violence and aggression, including fires set in churches, an assault on a priest, the desecration of a tabernacle and the hacking of more than 100 Catholic websites.
In the French periodical La Provence, local priest Father Benoît Delabre reported that two weeks ago, the altar at the Church of St. Madeleine-de-l’Île was set on fire in Martigues, about 800 kilometers south of Paris.
“The altar … is marble, which prevented the fire from spreading. I can’t imagine what would have happened with a wooden altar. The consequences for our church would have been tragic.”
He also said that, on May 15, another unknown person desecrated the tabernacle that contained the consecrated Hosts in the church at Jonquières in the same region. Additionally, Father Delabre himself was attacked last Sunday, by a man he caught at the church door who appeared to be “trying to steal something.”
“We know just how serious these attacks are on signs and persons because of their faith. … The Catholic faith, its symbols and those that profess it deserve to be respected just like every kind of religious expression that does not disturb the public order,” he said.
Gaby Charroux, the mayor of Martigues, said in a statement that “thefts of every kind in churches in France are more and more frequent” and promised the police will curb the attacks.
The publication La Croix reported that, in April, more than 100 websites of churches and congregations were hacked by suspected Tunisian cyber-jihadists who call themselves the Fallaga Team.
In Belgium, on the afternoon of May 24, two fires considerably damaged the church in Mont-Sainte-Geneviève, which dates from the 16th century. The first one began in the sacristy. The firefighters had barely left the scene, after managing to control that fire, when another much bigger fire in the church roof was reported.
The police from Hainut, 37 miles southeast of Brussels, are looking for the culprits.