A group of Catholics were attacked and subjected to vicious, anti-Christian verbal abuse in a Parisian suburb last Wednesday during a torchlit procession that had been organized to celebrate the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
The Marian procession, which took place in Nanterre and saw a group of thirty Catholics walk from the chapel of Saint-Joseph-des-Fontenelles to the parish of Sainte-Marie-des-Fontenelles, was interrupted at the first prayer station when a group of Islamists began hurling insults and death threats at the participants, Le Figaro reports.
The dozen or so Islamists involved in the attack called the procession’s participants “Kafirs,” an Arabic term meaning “infidels,” and shouted “I swear on the Quran I will cut your throat” in the direction of the priest who had been leading the group.
“They then threw water on us, then grabbed one of the torches which they then threw in our direction,” Jean-Marc Sertillange, a permanent deacon at Sainte-Marie-des-Fontenelles, told the Paris-based newspaper. The words “you are not at home” were also heard coming from the Islamist attackers, according to the report.
The group of Islamists, which reportedly had three ringleaders, managed to flee before police arrived at the scene. After authorities deemed the route to be safe, the procession promptly resumed, but without any additional prayer stops.
Upon hearing about the incident, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Saturday took to social media to extend his support to Catholics across France and to condemn the attack, calling the acts which had taken place “unacceptable.”
“The freedom of worship must be able to be exercised in all serenity in our country. Support for Catholics in France,” Darmanin wrote.
The following day, Deputy Public Prosecutor Caroline Gontran announced that the Nanterre public prosecutor’s office had opened an investigation into the matter. A statement recounting the incident’s events has also been posted to the Diocese of Nanterre’s official social media.
The incident comes amid a seemingly ever-increasing groundswell of anti-Catholic sentiment across France and Western Europe.
Inevitably, the attack not only evokes memories of the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel, an 86-year-old priest whose throat was slashed by Islamic State militants in 2016 as he gave mass in Normandy, but also of the three Catholic parishioners who were stabbed to death by Islamist terrorists in Nice’s Notre-Dame cathedral in 2020.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.