A group of police in riot gear and armed with truncheons and tear gas was outside preparing to storm the building. St. Rita has been slated for demolition since October 2015.
Et cum spiritu tuo.
As the police began ripping the pews away from the entrance, the faithful, arms locked, broke out in song. The priest continued reciting the ancient prayers. The altar boy remained at his side. A second priest led a small group kneeling beside the sanctuary in the recitation of the Rosary. Some of the faithful prepared handkerchiefs for covering their noses in the case that the police decided to put their canisters of tear gas to use.
As the police stormed the church, the faithful quickly retreated to the sanctuary, encircling the steps to the altar, using their bodies to protect the priest and the altar boy, who were still celebrating Holy Mass. One by one, they were forcefully torn away. The priest who had been praying the Rosary was thrown to the floor and dragged from the sanctuary and out of the church. Fr. Guillaume de Tanoüarn, still engrossed in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, was pulled from the altar by his vestments and forced outside.
The dramatic events which unfolded this morning were made particularly shocking by the fact that less than 24 hours have passed since the funeral of Fr. Jacques Hamel, the priest martyred at the altar during Holy Mass by ISIS operatives in Rouen last week.
As with any developing story, verifying competing and partially contradictory claims is difficult. Here’s what we know with relative certainty:
St. Rita was built in the year 1900 under the direction of the Association of Chapels Catholic and Apostolic (L’association des Chapelles Catholiques et Apostoliques). In 1988, it was made available to Dominique Philippe, the self-designated “archbishop” of a so-called “Gallican” community. Something of a showman, Msgr. Philippe regularly made headlines in France and around the world for his holding annual blessings of pets and various animals – ranging from Cocker Spaniels to Camels – in St. Rita. But for all his Barnum & Baily-esque showmanship, Philippe was not able to attract enough financially supportive parishioners, and when the owners signaled that they wanted to sell the property, the Gallican community was unable to raise the funds to purchase it. Thus, in October 2015, they abandoned St. Rita and the building was slated to be demolished and the property converted into a parking lot. It was at this time that Fr. Guillaume de Tanoüarn, ordained in the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and co-founder of the Institute of the Good Shepherd (IBP), began offering the traditional Latin Mass to all who desired it.
It is important to note that the IBP, which offers the Tridentine form of the Roman Rite according to the 1962 Roman Missal, is in full communion with the Holy See and is growing rapidly in France: ten years after its founding in 2006, the number of priests in the IBP has grown to more than 30, and the Institute can boast of an equal number of seminarians. It is governed by the same regulations as more familiar Institutes and Fraternities dedicated to the preservation of Tradition, such as the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP). Contrary to some reports, therefore, it appears that the parishioners who were forcibly evicted from St. Rita were not “Gallicans”, but rather Catholics in good standing with the Church.
The Fifth Republic: powerless against mujahideen; instead waging war upon faithful Frenchmen.
À bas la République française!