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France’s interior minister condemns threats against Catholics during procession

interior minister

France’s interior minister on Saturday condemned threats made against Catholics taking part in a Marian procession in the western suburbs of Paris, Catholic News Agency reports.

Gérald Darmanin deplored what he said were “unacceptable acts” during a torchlight procession in Nanterre on Dec. 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

“Freedom of worship must be able to be exercised in all serenity in our country,” he wrote on his Twitter account on Dec. 11, expressing “support for Catholics in France.”

The French daily Le Figaro reported that on Wednesday evening around 30 Catholics were due to depart from the chapel of Saint-Joseph-des-Fontenelles on an annual procession to the parish of Sainte-Marie-des-Fontenelles, around half a mile away, along a route approved by the local authorities.

Jean-Marc Sertillange, a permanent deacon at Sainte-Marie-des-Fontenelles, told Le Figaro: “But shortly after 7 p.m., and while we had advanced only a few hundred meters, a band of unknown people on the path verbally attacked us at the time of the first prayer station.”

The newspaper reported that the threats included cries of “Kafirs,” an Arabic term meaning “infidels,” and “Wallah [I swear] on the Quran I will cut your throat.”

“They then threw water on us, then grabbed one of the torches which they then threw in our direction,” Sertillange said.

When the police arrived, the group of around a dozen people, with three reported ringleaders, ran away. The procession resumed, heading directly to the parish without making further stops.

Nanterre, a commune of around 97,000 people, is located in the Hauts-de-Seine department in northern France.

The local authorities said that they strongly condemned “the insults, threats, and intimidation” during the procession and expressed their solidarity with the Catholics of Nanterre.

“Law enforcement agencies are mobilized to arrest and bring to justice the perpetrators of these intolerable acts,” they said in a Dec. 11 social media post.

The Diocese of Nanterre posted a statement on its Twitter account on Dec. 11.

It said: “A Marian procession — registered with the Prefecture of Hauts-de-Seine — was organized between the churches of Saint-Joseph and Sainte-Marie-des-Fontenelles in Nanterre on Dec. 8, 2021.”

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