French nuns fight with climate activists to protect their new church


Western Europe

Nuns trying to remove activists from an excavator. Photo YouTube, Famille Missionnaire de Notre Dame

French nuns of the Missionary Family of Our Lady fought against climate activists. The latter attempted to protest against building plans for a large church complex in a natural park.

The sisters, however, would not let their new church be blocked by the climate activists, the New York Times reported. The conflict has been ongoing for years already, but last month, it actually resulted in violent clashes on the building site in the village of Saint-Pierre-de Colombier in Southern France.

After the climate activists broke through the fences surrounding the construction site, the nuns decided to chase them off themselves.

Videos show how sisters grab activists and roll into a ditch fighting. Others try to push the protestors away from the site. According to sister Gaetane, who participated in the actions at the construction site, the nuns won the fight.

The clashes did not come out of the blue, the New York Times writes. They are the escalation of a longstanding hostility between the Missionary Family of Our Lady, a Catholic order, and environmental activists. At the centre of the disagreement is the construction of a large religious centre in a valley of the Ardèche mountains. According to the Catholic order, this new centre is necessary because the number of pilgrims who visit the area is growing. The village of Saint-Pierre-de-Colombier is known for its statue of the Virgin Mary. Currently, about 2,000 people visit the site annually.

The new religious centre is to provide accommodation for pilgrims. Therefore, it is to include two dining halls and a church. Currently, two pillars have already been erected in the Bourges River; they are the beginning of a footbridge to the building. According to the Missionary Family of Our Lady, the church is largely paid for by donations from pilgrims and other believers.

Eye sore

However, not everyone is enthusiastic. Earlier in October, protestors already broke into the construction site and chained themselves to machinery to prevent the construction workers from building on the church, the Missionary Family writes on its website.

The environmental activists argue that the church is a “polluting eye sore in a region dense with rocky slopes, chestnut trees and zealous hikers.” Activist Martine Maurice told the New York Times that the Catholic order is “kidnapping the landscape.”

And the Catholic Church is not unified in its support for the project either. Former local archbishop Jean-Louis Balsa said in 2020 that the new religious centre is “disproportionate and should not be built.”


However, even through numerous legal battles, the activists have been unable to stop the construction altogether. As of recently, they got their hopes up because an old protected plant was located at the construction site.

Nevertheless, Brother Clement-Marie does not believe that the environment is the real reason for the resistance against the church. He claims that the environmental activists are anti-Catholic. At the same time, he continues to hope that the project can be finished. “Our main way to react is prayer.”



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