More places of Muslim worship have been built in France during the past thirty years than Catholic Churches in the last century, that is, more than 2,000. In a study on the construction of religious buildings in metropolitan France, the October 26, 2006 edition of La Croix has drawn up a similar report for Evangelical places of worship: in thirty years, more than a thousand.
The Evangelical movement, in the past a minority, owns two thirds of the Protestant places of prayer. According to Daniel Liechti, a statistician of the Evangelical Federation of France (FEF), of the 3,000 Protestant places of worship in France, 1,200 are Reformed, Lutheran or belong to other denominations known as “historical” while 1,800 are of Evangelical obedience. The latter numbered no more than 800 in 1970, but since then their numbers have been constantly growing. The stated objective of the Evangelical movement is to create one place of worship per 10,000 inhabitants.
The creation of Muslim places of worship has also accelerated in the last few years, particularly in the Paris region. In 1976, there were 150 Muslim prayer rooms, and in 1985 the number had risen to 900. In 2001, the Ministry of the Interior counted 1,555 mosques and Muslim prayer halls, whereas today, the latest directory – available on the Internet at the address http://annuclic.com – has 2,147 references including mosques, prayer halls and family rooms.
The boom years for the creation of prayer halls were between 1990 and 2000, at the moment when the Muslims lost the hope of returning to their country of origin, according to Amine Nejdi, president of the Regional Council of Muslim Worship (CRCM) in Lorraine. This growth should continue in the next few years, notes La Croix, as the Muslims of France, twice as numerous as their German neighbors, have at their disposal the same number of places of worship. (2,100)
The number of synagogues remains more or less stable, at around 280. As for pagodas and other Buddhist prayer halls, there are about 150 in France.
During the past five years, the Catholic Church in France has built around twenty churches, notably in the dioceses of Paris, Pontoise and Nice, but in that time, about sixty churches have been deconsecrated, thus officially losing their status as places of worship. This represents one quarter of deconsecrations since 1905. – There are approximately 45,000 Catholic places of worship in France.
The majority of dioceses no longer have churches in the pipeline. Every French diocese had several projects during the years between 1960 and 1970, but the churches built a hundred years ago – property of the dioceses under the law of 1905 – pose real financial problems. What is more, they are seldom attended, says La Croix, since the new urban areas for which they were built, now have a more Muslim or Protestant population.
As for the churches built before 1905 – which belong to the town councils – but remain allotted to the Catholic church – several thousand of them are used little or not at all for worship today. Town councils in the face of the cost of maintaining some of these churches without worship, are demanding their closure in order to transform them into cultural centers or to sell them.