Two men are accused of breaking into a church in the French commune of Tarbes and vandalising the place of worship and soiling books with faeces.
The church attack occurred on Wednesday afternoon and saw the pair, who are still at large, take out prayer books which they proceeded to tear up, set on fire, and soil with human waste, French broadcaster Franceinfo reports.
The pair also emptied an entire fire extinguisher, threw a statue at the church’s benches, and toppled a crucifix which they also tossed to the ground.
Bishop Nicolas Brouwet, the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, said that he did not think the attack was necessarily motivated by the desecration of the church in a purely religious meaning, given that none of the holy objects was vandalised or stolen from the church’s altar.
He added that he wondered whether or not, in the wake of the attack, churches in France should be equipped with CCTV cameras to prevent further crimes from happening.
Mayor of Tarbes Gérard Trémège condemned the attack saying: “These acts should not be trivialised. Respect for beliefs and convictions of any kind must be absolute.”
France Church Attacks: Statue of Saint Beheaded, Cathedral Targeted in Car Ram Raid https://t.co/MeBk8i2ALf
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The attack comes just weeks after thieves used a car as a battering ram to break down the historic doors of the UNESCO-recognised Oloron-Sainte-Marie cathedral in the French Pyrenees where they stole multiple gold religious objects.
Church attacks have become a significant problem across France in recent years. It has been estimated that on average there are as many as three attacks on churches per day in the country.
Many have spoken out against the growing trend of vandalism, arson, and desecration including conservative Cardinal Robert Sarah.
“The acts of desecration and vandalism in the churches are highly reprehensible,” Cardinal Sarah said earlier this year. He added: “They are the sad reflection of a sick civilisation that lets itself be swept away in the nets of evil. The bishops, priests, and the faithful must keep up their strength and courage.”