Sydney Archbishop: French Church Burnings Attest Christians ‘Under Siege’

A French flag and a prayer beads are displayed at a makeshift memorial in front of the Saint Etienne church where Priest Jacques Hamel was killed on 26 July in a hostage taking in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, Thursday, July 28, 2016. The second man who attacked a Normandy church during …
AP Photo/Francois Mori

Sydney’s Catholic archbishop said Thursday that Christians around the world are “under siege” and hopes the fire at Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral was not a deliberate attack as others have been.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher said that after hearing of a recent “catalogue of fires” and arson attacks in French churches, “it really struck me that we are, in some ways, under siege.”

“In a sense, Christians are always under siege, even when they are very popular in the world. We have our own spiritual battles to fight,” he told radio host Alan Jones.

“Particularly at this time,” he said, “we know there are those in the world who are opposed to all religion or opposed to our religion and it looks like some of them are determined to make that clear by burning down our buildings.”

“I hope that’s not what was behind what happened at Notre-Dame Cathedral,” he added.

Investigators into the cause of the fire have found nothing suggesting arson, and the working hypothesis suggests that the blaze was an accident possibly linked to renovation works on the cathedral roof, almost all of which was burnt in the nine-hour fire.

At the same time, a recent spate of Catholic church desecrations and fires throughout France has led some to wonder whether the Notre-Dame fire could have been a similar case. Just last month, arsonists set fire to another centuries-old church in Paris, the Church of Saint Sulpice, which firefighters managed to contain before it did serious damage.

In his radio interview, Archbishop Fischer praised the response of the French people to the catastrophe, particularly their resolve to rebuild the church, which he has called “a wonder of the Christian world.”

“I think the determination of the French people to rebuild it is a very Christian response,” Fischer said.

“It says we won’t give in to such evil; that we know there’s a rhythm of death and resurrection in all our lives — and that’s true even for our church buildings,” he added.

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