Thirty people barricaded themselves inside the church of St Rita
A Gallican priest has been dragged out of Mass by Paris police in an evacuation of a church marked for demolition, according to reports.
The church of St Rita is used by the Gallican church, which is not part of the Catholic Church.
Thirty activists, including members of the far-right group Action Francaise, barricaded themselves inside the church last night. Dozens joined a sit-in protest this morning against the demolition of the church. It is to be replaced by a parking lot and housing, a decision which has angered many parishioners and other locals.
Twelve cars of riot police were called to the site this morning to force protesters out. Pictures emerged of a priest being forcibly dragged out of Mass.
Although the church officially closed in 2015, it has been used for Gallican Masses and for weddings and baptisms.
Mining work has started in preparation to knock down the church.
Dominique Philippe, one of the priests who officiates at St Rita’s, has said that if the demolition plans go ahead, priests will have to celebrate Mass on the street.
The Gallican church rejects many Catholic doctrines including that of papal infallibility. It accepts the councils of the Church before Vatican I.
St Rita is known as Paris’s “animal church”: pets are allowed in, and the church holds a Mass each November at which pets, including camels and parrots, are encouraged to come for a blessing.
The dragging of a priest out of the church – according to some reports, while saying Mass – has caused uproar on Twitter after images emerged, with the hashtag #SainteRita being used thousands of times.
Some Twitter users said the eviction was especially shocking after the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel last week.
The demolition has been requested by the building’s owners, the Association of Catholic and Apostolic Chapels. The Gallican Church was unable to raise enough money to keep hold of the building.