Archbishop Michel Aupetit deplored May 30 the “anger, contempt and violence” directed at the group of around 300 Catholics, including children and elderly people, taking part in the “March of the Martyrs.”
“We are troubled that what we preach — a God of love — can arouse so much hatred, so much anger,” he said. “Last night, here, there was a demonstration of anger, contempt, and violence.”
The archbishop was speaking at a Mass marking the 150th anniversary of the Catholic martyrs of the Paris Commune at the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Otages, built in honor of hostages killed on May 26, 1871.
He said: “The Lord promised us that there would be violence, not because we ourselves are violent beings, but by reminding us of what our brothers here, the hostages in question, have experienced, who, according to the reports we have read, have never shown anger in the face of anger, hatred in the face of hatred, but on the contrary, a peaceful and forgiving heart.”
The Paris Commune was a short-lived insurrection against the French government. Its left-wing, anti-clerical leaders controlled the French capital from March 18 to May 28, 1871. As the French army crushed the revolt, the Communards executed their hostages, including Paris Archbishop Georges Darboy.
The May 29 procession started from the square de la Roquette, where Darboy was killed on May 24, 1871, and made its way toward Notre-Dame-des-Otages.
As soon as the group left the square, those in the procession were subjected to jeers and whistles, reported the French weekly Famille Chrétienne.
A few minutes later, a group of around 10 men physically attacked the procession, tearing down flags and throwing projectiles.
A video posted on social media showed black-clad, far-left demonstrators punching and kicking participants in the procession.
Two elderly people were reportedly knocked to the ground, with one later requiring stitches for a head injury.
Around 50 demonstrators then blocked the procession near the Church of Notre-Dame de la Croix de Ménilmontant. Organizers asked those taking part in the procession to take refuge in the church, where Paris auxiliary Bishop Denis Jachiet decided that the procession should not proceed to Notre-Dame-des-Otages.
“We waited and prayed until the police extracted us,” the event’s organizer told Le Figaro newspaper, adding that mothers and children were “in shock.”
Karine Dalle, the spokesperson for Paris archdiocese, told Famille Chrétienne that the incident was “surreal.”
“It is purely gratuitous violence, it is sad to see, 150 years after the Commune, that some people exploit a simple peaceful commemoration, especially since this procession had no protest dimension.”
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin condemned the attack.
“Yesterday, in Paris, Catholics were attacked by violent individuals on the sidelines of a procession. Freedom of worship must be exercised in complete serenity in our country,” he wrote on his Twitter account May 30.