RU 31/2007 - FRANCE: the martyr church St Genoveva of Argenteuil
- FRANCE: Vacations? An excellent time to come back a little bit behind, in order to seize better the importance of the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI restoring "the Holy Mass of all times" to its place of honor in the Church: let's remember the martyr church Saint Genoveva of Argenteuil, massacred 20 years before, precisely on November 5th, 1987, by the bulldozers of Argenteuil's deputy-mayor Montdargent to whom this poor church had been sold by the bishop of Pontoise, while preferring this solution to the purchase offer made at the time by the faithful of the Holy Mass St Pius V (SSPX). The church has been constructed in 1898 by the own means of Father Jaquemot, who is by the way the author of an important historical book on the Holy Tunic of Argenteuil. Declared parochial church in 1926, it welcomed every Sunday some 800 faithful. In 1972 the parish, collapsed to 300 people, evacuated the church and got settled 150 meters farther in the parochial sports room, while selling the church Saint Genoveva to the Moslems for 200,000 Francs (abt 40,500 USD). It became the 'Mosque el-Quoubâ'. The vicar left with the bell of the church, going as missionary to Brazil. Effects of the Council Vatican II? Need of money? Whatever. But from the year 1984, the 'Association of Moslems in Europe' also, tired of the protests of the neighbors who were exacerbated of the 'noise' (of muezzins?), started to frequent less the church. Finally, in 1986, since the sale to the Moslems - defect of form - had not passed the level of a 'promise of sale', in spite of the complete payment of the 200,000 Francs price, the Communist municipality took benefit from the situation by pushing through its 'right of preemption' and bought from the bishopric of Pontoise the land with the church. The martyr church Saint Genoveva has therefore in fact been sold two times by the bishopric: once by a 'promise' to the Moslems (200,000 Fancs), and a 2nd time 'by preemption' to the Communists municipality (198,694 Frs). By the way, the bishopric offered this last amount to the cheated Moslems, a bit like Judas giving back the 30 silver coins of the iniquity to the Temple after the betrayal, but the Moslems refused to accept them while preferring to go to court and to claim their property rights. In all this business, the traditional Catholics were completely ignored by the bishopric, as if they didn't exist. Well, the Communist mayor of Argenteuil Mr. Montdargent demolished the church Saint Genoveva on November 5th, 1987 and started at the same place a public housing project. That was the end of this beautiful church in limestone. The traditionalists, organized since March 1987 in the "Committee Saint Genoveva", didn't leave the matter here. They organized, since the announcement of the demolition, prayer vigils around the menaced church, and after the destruction they opened a booth on the market of Argenteuil in order to call for the reconstruction of the church "Saint Genoveva and Joan d'Orleans", and especially organized major processions of repentance through the city center during 7 years on the very day of the anniversary of the destruction of the church, with the first procession 12 days after the destruction, under the banner: "Forgive us, Lord, for the Destroyed Church!" At the same moment, a delegation of the Committee was received by cardinal Ratzinger in Rome, on November 9th, 1987, to whom photographs of the destruction of November 5th, 1987 could be presented; he appeared to be very shocked about such events in France and recommended and encouraged a certain number of proceedings in the Church, including a letter to the Holy Father which he promised to hand over to his Holiness by himself, but all these measures proved later on to be useless. Here is an excerpt of that letter of the Committee to the Holy Father: "We are in an agonizing situation: a Catholic bishopric prefers to us rather Moslems, or Communists, and even demolition and nothing. We should like to submit this question to your consideration, Holy Father, and to all Christians: does our bishop have the right, because of the 'excommunication' of Mgr. Lefebvre, to refuse to us his empty churches which we would need urgently? Would we no more be sons of God, his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ? Can he refuse to us the crumbs of bread which we are asking for?... Holy Father, please obtain that our bishop may put an act of love, so that the world can recognize that we, all the Christians, are his disciples and brothers." The bishop of Pontoise - since short time Mgr Thierry Jordan, today promoted archbishop of Reims - refused during his conversations with the Committee to leave them one of the 110 empty churches of his Val-d'Oise bishopric, except for the case that the Traditionalists sign by their hands "all the decrees of the Council Vatican II". Though the Committee well gave back: "And the Moslems and Communists to whom you sold the church Saint Genoveva, did they sign that?", there was nothing to do. The Apostolic nuncio and several cardinals in Rome were full of commiseration, but nobody wanted to attack the bishop of Pontoise for his lack of charity towards the Tradition which had become so brutally reveiled. After 2 years of useless procedures and petitions, the Committee hardened its way of acting: at the end of 1989 it decided to occupy, each month, another church in the Val-d'Oise bishopric, including the Basilica of Argenteuil which contains the Holy Tunic, and the cathedral Saint Maclou at Pontoise, in order to celebrate there the Holy Mass of all times and make known its request of getting an empty church. Thus, from March 1990 until May 1992, 18 "church occupations" have been operated, with, according to the case, 130 to 300 faithful, sometimes even 1000. Here is the honor list:
- Mar 11, 1990: church St Nicolas at La Frette-sur-Seine (Holy Mass in front of the church, because a police line barred the access). - Apr 8, 1990: church St Martin at Garges-les-Gonesse (Palm Sunday, mass in the church) - May 20, 1990: church St. Mary at Eaubonne (mass in front of the church closed for repainting) - July 1, 1990: church St Ferdinand at Argenteuil (rosary prayer), then catheral St Maclou at Pontoise (after 2 hours of palavers and 'rififi in the cathedral', as it was the title of the daily LE PARISIEN, the mass could be celebrated in a side chapel inside the cathedral) - Oct 7, 1990: again St Nicolas church at La Frette-sur-Seine (mass in the church with the OK of the priest) - Nov 4, 1990: Basilica of Argenteuil (mass in front of closed church, after the 4th procession of repentance thru city centre, 1000 persons) - Nov 11, 1990: perturbation of the 'oecumenical celebration' at the Basilica of Argenteuil by the Committee - Feb 17, 1991: church St Ferdinand at Argenteuil (mass in the church) - Mar 17, 1991: Our Lady of Pontoise (mass in the church opened by a ruse - because the cathedral was closed, then procession to the bishop's residence with a banner saying 'Stop Intolerance, Monseigneur!') - Apr 14, 1991: Requiem for Mgr Lefebvre in the Basilica of Argenteuil (1000 persons, with several mayors and city counsels of Val-d'Oise province) - May 5, 1991: church of the Assumption of Our Lady at Taverny ('catholic non-stop day' at this high pilgrimage place, with mass, conferences, procession and Vespers, partially with the clergy of the church) - Nov 2, 1991: Basilica of Argenteuil (mass with many people, with catafalque, in front of the closed Basilica, after the 5th procession of repentance thru city centre) - Dec 24, 1991: Xmas eve in the Sacred Heart church at Eaubonne (electricity was cut off, midnight mass with organ which was introduced by the tradional faithful into the church) - Feb 23, 1992: cathedral St Maclou at Pontoise (mass in the cathedral at the main altar, the doors were miraculously open when the traditional faithful arrived). - Mar 15, 1992: Basilica of Argenteuil (mass in the Basilica opened by a ruse) - Apr 12, 1992: Palm Sunday in the church of Auvers/Oise, the famous one painted by van Gogh (favorable welcome), with procession thru city centre - May 31, 1992: again church St Nicolas at La Frette-sur-Seine (mass in front of the church because there were baptisms inside), then procession of Corpus Christi through the village and continuation by boat on Seine and Oise rivers, with solemn Vespers on the boat, etc... During that period the Committee sent several letters to all 114 priests of the Val-d'Oise province for explaining their request. Those priests met secretely for discussion and voted: only a few voices were lacking to obtain a majority of those who would like their bishop to give a church to Tradition. All these actions were accompanied by hateful media comments, for instance: "They are from the Front National of Le Penl! Their look? Cassock and skinhead hairdress. Their secrete language? Latin. Their rite? Saint Pius V"... (CANARD ENCHAINE of July 2, 1990), to which the Committe answered by a flyer, in a cool and proud way: "We are probably the only 'itinerant parish' in France - or 'parish in the air' as liked to call us our first spiritual counselor +Fr. Marchal - to feel themselves at home in all churches of the diocese. What a catholicity! What a 'liberty of the children of God'! What a mobility! ! What discovery - every month - of another marvellous church constructed 'by faith for faith'! What a richness, having nothing! It's like the universality of 'everywhere and nowhere' - not very easy to live but how evangelical! - of the first Christians at the times of the catacombs, or of our brothers and sisters in the Eastern countries or in China. We shall always try to maintain this truly Catholic aperture of the mind" (PRESENT, August 9, 1990) - Unfortunately in May 1992 the church occupations in the Val-d'Oise, which were so well going ahead, ceased, because the Committe didn't find any more priests for celebrating its masses. The Committee will always remain thankful to all the priests who assisted it, at one moment or the other, especially for the celebration of the 'surprise masses', inspite of their ordinary heavy duties on Sundays: the Rev. Fathers +Marchal, Pivert, Neri, Cecchin, Aulagnier, de Tanoüarn, Barrere... , as well as to the hundreds of brave faithful who were often, during those peregrinations, treated by by the police like gangsters. With the donations collected for the Tradition in the Val-d'Oise - almost 200,000 Francs or 40,000 USD - the Committee and its donators could help massively in the enlargement and reopening of the chapel St Matthew at Pontoise - a transformed agricultural hangar - where, since that time, the Holy Mass in St Pius V rite is celebrated every Sunday, with Gregorian choir, catechism and scouts (SSPX). Today, 20 years after the demolition of the martyr church St Genoveva of Argenteuil, the Motu Proprio finally arrived, consecrating the efforts of maintaining the holy Roman liturgy in the Church, a heroic fight through 40 years, but finally victorius. Deo gratias! - (ru; informations concerning the Committee Ste Genoveva: COSTA-UNEC, BP 70114, F-95210 St-Gratien).
- - O.A.M.D.G. - -