A new program has been launched by the Heritage Foundation, aimed at “promoting respectful practices of sharing or reconversion” of buildings related to France's religious heritage.
On November 22, 2022, it launched with great publicity its latest initiative, called “Sesame,” with the aim of encouraging original initiatives to convert places of worship threatened with disappearance: five prizes will issued in 2023, endowed with €20,000 each, in order to reward the most imaginative projects.
Although the Foundation has in the past made it possible to save more than 7,000 religious buildings in France, the decline in religious practice, the lack of maintenance of the buildings, combined with constantly increasing work costs, make its work more and more difficult, and the future of the religious heritage of France is at stake, hence the idea of the Sesame Prize.
The winners of the prize will have to give assurances relating to “consultation and local support for the project, compatibility with current or original religious use, respect for the architecture and the heritage quality of the building, the opening to the public and the frequentation of the site, the positive impact on the territory.”
These are in fact quite flexible conditions, since the Foundation gives as an example a former seminary and its chapel transformed into “social housing and a cultural and health center.” There has also been the organization of “solidarity” grocery stores in the churches of Saint-André and Saint-Camille in Lyon and the conversion of one into a theater hall: the Notre-Dame-de-la-Gloriette church in Caen.
A second question arises whether any of these formerly Catholic sacred spaces will be converted into sites for Islamic worship.
Whatever the good faith of the promoters of the Sesame Prize, Catholics should deplore the progressive and organized annihilation of French Catholic heritage, the ultimate avatar of a cancel culture dear to many of “elites.”