Vatican Denounces Rising Anti-Christian Hate Crimes in Europe

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ROME — The Vatican has decried the rise in anti-Christian hate crimes throughout Europe as well as the discriminatory treatment suffered by Christians during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Speaking on behalf of the Holy See, Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk stressed the gravity of anti-Christian violence in an address at a conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on intolerance and discrimination, Vatican News reported Thursday.

The Holy See’s Permanent Representative to OSCE noted the disturbing increase in explicitly anti-Christian acts in Europe, including “threats, violent attacks, murders and profanation of churches and places of worship, cemeteries and other religious properties.”

In 2019, Christian sites in Europe suffered a record number of attacks, with some 3,000 Christian churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments vandalized, looted, or defaced.

Reports chronicling the anti-Christian acts describe a broad spectrum of profanation including arson, defecation, desecration, looting, mockery, Satanism, theft, urination, and vandalism.

The greatest number of acts of violence against Christian sites have occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments “are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,” the reports state.

In his address this week, Msgr. Urbańczyk said he was concerned over the growth of the false idea “that religions could have a negative impact or represent a threat to the well-being of our societies” as well as the push to make prayer and religious practice a private matter with no place in the public square.

The Vatican representative also took issue with government overreach during the coronavirus lockdowns resulting in “de facto discriminatory treatment” against Christian churches.

“Rights and fundamental freedoms have been limited or derogated throughout the whole OSCE area,” he said, including the forced closure of churches and restrictions on religious services.

Even in the midst of times of crisis, fundamental freedoms such as religious liberty must be respected, the monsignor declared.

“Tolerance cannot be an alibi for denying or guaranteeing fundamental human rights,” he said.

In late April, the Italian Bishops’ Conference issued a stern rebuke to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over his “arbitrary” decision to open a series of social activities while maintaining a ban on public worship.

“The Church demands to be able to resume its pastoral action,” the bishops said, while also underscoring the right of the Church to organize the life of the Christian community “in the fullness of its own autonomy.”

We “cannot accept to see the exercise of the freedom of worship compromised,” they said, adding that the faithful must be able to nurture themselves spiritually, especially from the Church’s “sacramental life.”

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