When parishioners in the French Diocese of Bellay-Ars enter church these days, they might not have to genuflect.
That’s because the bishop has ordered churches to empty their tabernacles of the reserved Eucharist.
The diocese, situated in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, has been beset with church break-ins and theft of ciboria from their tabernacles. In some cases, thieves have left sacred Hosts behind; in others, they took them with the precious vessels.
This has happened 10 times since last October, with five incidents in the first week of February alone.
“The Church invites every Christian to pray for forgiveness and repentance of those who committed these acts,” the diocese said in a statement, calling the theft of the hosts a “desecration of extreme gravity.”
Bishop Pascal Roland has ordered parishes to keep consecrated hosts in secure places rather than in tabernacles, the UK Catholic newspaper The Tablet. The bishop:
His order came after five such thefts in the first week of February, the latest in a series of thefts of ciboria and defacement of churches in the diocese in recent months.
The Tablet noted that vandalism of French churches is increasingly common, a phenomenon highlighted in a report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe regarding religious intolerance.
The resolution said governments had overlooked “numerous acts of hostility, violence and vandalism recorded in recent years against Christians and their places of worship.” …
It also asked the media to avoid negative stereotyping of Christians “in the same way as for any other group.”
The resolution did not mention specific examples of anti-Christian discrimination but the accompanying report on which it was based cited several instances, notably British cases where registrars were dismissed for opposing same-sex unions or marriages or employees disciplined for wearing religious symbols.
The report also mentioned vandalism of churches in Sweden and legal action taken against German Christians who home-schooled their children for religious reasons. In Ukraine, it said, Catholic and Protestant churches have increasingly come under attack in areas controlled by armed separatists.
John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.