Vandals went through a graveyard in southwest France before dawn on Wednesday smashing anything relating to Christian symbolism, including dozens of stone crosses, crucifixes, and images of angels and the Virgin Mary.
According to local reports, the marauders profaned nearly 100 Christian graves in the Breuil cemetery in Cognac, destroying mostly crosses but also smashing a number of statues, plaques, and representations of angels and of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The desecration of the cemetery took place just days before the Christian celebration of All Souls Day on November 2, when Catholics visit the graves of their loved ones to pray for the repose of their souls.
The mayor of Cognac, Michel Gourinchas, went to the graveyard Wednesday to survey the extent of the damage, describing the incident as “lamentable” and “shameful.” The socialist mayor said he hopes the incident was nothing more than an act of gratuitous and foolish vandalism without anti-Christian motivation.
“It is obviously the desire to break things, but it is the police investigation that will determine the nature of the faithless, lawless individuals who come to desecrate objects in a cemetery. I hope there is no political or religious connotation,” the mayor said.
“I hope, even if it is abominable, that it is only petty individuals who have done this to show how clever they are,” he said.
Gourinchas noted as evidence for the secular nature of the crime that the vandals left no inscription in the cemetery indicating an ideology or belief, a statement that one Christian observatory found to be disingenuous.
“The mayor says there is nothing to indicate a religious motivation,” wrote Daniel Hamiche for L’Observatoire de la Christianophobie. “A pile of broken crosses isn’t enough for him, evidently.”
“What more does he need than this huge number of smashed crosses, crucifixes, and statues of the Virgin Mary?” he wrote.
Anti-Christian desecration has been on the rise in France, although state officials have been reluctant to acknowledge the religious nature of the acts. As Breitbart News reported last March, twelve Christian churches in France were attacked and vandalized in a single week.
The Central Criminal Intelligence Service (SCRC) of the gendarmerie reported in the spring that an average of nearly three churches per day have been targeted for vandalism over the past three years.
In 2018, the Ministry of the Interior recorded 541 anti-Semitic acts, 100 anti-Muslim acts, and 1063 anti-Christian acts.
On Thursday, the prosecutor’s office in nearby Angouleme opened an official investigation into the most recent cemetery vandalism, with a focus on “the deliberate degradation of private property.”