Via Media

Via Media

Is Paris Turning?

A report:

One can see this in all sorts of small ways, even in a city like Paris—the ville natale of secular Enlightenment and a cultural epicenter for so many of its progeny. Last fall, I lived in Paris after some eight years away, and I was surprised and heartened by what I saw.

The homilies in various Catholic churches I attended were rigorous and unabashedly theological (here, if not always in politics, the longstanding French taste for speculative thinking is a blessing). Several Catholic parishes in the center of Paris are able to attract about 25 to 30 people for each of their respective lunchtime and evening Masses, and hundreds of people for Sunday Mass. Religious instruction is much better publicized and offered more widely to diverse ages and educational levels than it was when I last lived in the city in the mid to late 1990s.


The Catholic radio station, Radio Notre Dame ( broadcasts music, religious conversation, and theological debate from the center of Paris 24 hours a day, now mixing its format more broadly to appeal to different age groups and aesthetic sensibilities. It has created a broader network that offers Christian content for religious radio stations throughout France and the francophone world.

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Rich Leonardi

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:01 pm

Religious instruction is much better publicized and offered more widely to diverse ages and educational levels than it was when I last lived in the city in the mid to late 1990s.
That observation holds true in the U.K. The handful of churches I visited mostly featured posters announcing R.E. programs with rather straightforward, orthodox-sounding titles.
A friend of mine is an Opus Dei member, and his French and Spanish member-friends tell him that there is a growing renewal taking place underneath all the (understandable) worry about plummeting birth rates and Eurabia.

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Blind Squirrel

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:08 pm

I haven’t seen much evidence of this, unfortunately, in la France profonde, where attendances at Mass, across the board, seem both sparse and elderly. But perhaps others have had a different experience…?

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Noah Nehm

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:16 pm

A couple of comments:
About six months ago I read an article about French Charismatic Catholics, and their success in evangelizing Muslims.
I have heard that the interest in Catholicism in Germany has grown with BXVI as pope.
I have heard of the growth in listenership of a Czech Ecumenical Christian radio station (Proglas)
My guess is that a lot is happening under the surface in Europe. This is not to say all is well (witness the partial collapse of Catholicism in Ireland). The time is now to remind secular Europe, with great charity, of God’s love for them, and to support her people with our prayers.

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posted March 31, 2006 at 5:53 pm

Yay! Hurray! I love to read stuff like this. And the author’s understanding of the Power and Attractiveness of Christianity is top notch.
I hear people despairing about the Church and talking about how institutions in general get run and what can happen to them if they are run badly. There are powerful arguments along those lines, but one thing seems to get left out. Catholicism is TRUE. It is True and it has a power that goes under and through all the troubles and foolish decisions and redeems and transforms them despite themselves.
I often think of poor Pope Paul, that marvellous Servant of God of blessed memory, kneeling alone and saying over and over to himself, “Credo in Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam; Credo in Unam, Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam; Credo…” (I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church) to stave off despair in the dark days when the smoke of Satan seemed to be choking and killing the Church. I thank God that, as Benedict has said, we have been able to almost see and feel in the last year or so, the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church and the world.
God will not fail us, though our enemies seem to defeat us. They cannot conquer forever! The battle is already won and the Victor abides with us Always.

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Fr Paul Francis

posted March 31, 2006 at 6:37 pm

While Blind Squirrel is right about many parts of ‘la France profonde’, there are lots of signs of life in other places. While the majority of French dioceses have no ordinations, the diocese of Paris saw two hundred and thirty new priests ordained during Cardinal Lustiger’s 24 years as archbishop. The diocese has at present about one hundred and twenty seminarians. What the author of the Touchstone article is hearing in homilies is the voice of the Lustiger (and JP II) generation. Other dioceses such as Frejus-Toulon, Belley-Ars and Versailles also show similar signs. New religious congregations, particularly the Congregation of Saint John, are seriously engaged in adult formation in philosophy, theology and spirituality. But the new enthusiasm, like in other countries, is localised: certain dioceses, certain abbeys of monks or nuns, certain provinces of the older orders and congregations, and not others. So, to the question “Is Paris turning?”, the answer is certainly “Yes”, but the turning has been going on for about the last twenty-five years; what we are seeing now is its full momentum.

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posted March 31, 2006 at 7:47 pm

A Catholic Renaissance in Europe? Can it be? I’ll add it to my morning Rosary intention. I didn’t realize how pessimistic I’d become about Europe until I read this.

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Donald R. McClarey

posted March 31, 2006 at 9:25 pm

During the Reformation Paris was the citadel of Catholicism in France, with the population totally devoted to the Catholic cause. Remember Henri IV’s famous quip that Paris was worth a Mass. May the City of Lights one day be the citadel of Catholicism again in France.

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posted April 1, 2006 at 12:38 am

Here’s a photo of the children baptized in 2004 at my old parish in Paris in the 17th – St Charles de Monceau. Looking through the webpage it looks like a pretty active parish.

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posted April 1, 2006 at 11:51 am

The European situation is so varied that it’s impossible to generalise, e.g. drop in number of official resignations from the Church and rise in number of applications wanting to re-register in Germany; healthy Catholicism in south-west France, but weak in south-east; drop of 100,000 in number of Mass-goers in England and Wales since 2002.

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Anglican Peggy

posted April 4, 2006 at 1:19 pm

What did I say a few days ago??
We are a resurrection people following the Risen Son of God.
Alleluia! (Yes I know its Lent but….;-)
While its true that numbers are small and renewal is located in pockets, the same has been true in many different times in the Church’s life. As long as there are these pockets, these tiny seeds present like leaven in bread, anything is possible.
The Church began its growth with just twelve men. The monasteries of Europe turned a whole continent and preserved and advanced its current civilization.
Call me not worried but dont think for a moment that I am not praying Europe. I think it’s a case of the people of that region are standing at the edge of a cliff. They havent gone over to their destruction yet. Their feet on still on firm ground and some are making moves away from the edge. But at the the same time there are still millions of individuals who could move in the opposite direction and the barbarians are at the gates. They need all the help from us that they can get.

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