France Religion

By | January 25, 2022

By far the predominant religion in France is Catholic. At a great distance from it come the various confessions of Protestants, all of which reaches about 1,000,000, with the most important centers in Paris, the Cévennes, Montbéliard, etc., and especially in Alsace (about 250,000); then follow the Israelites, scattered a little everywhere, but particularly in the shopping centers, and they add up to about 200,000 (in Paris alone about 140,000). Muslims, mostly from French possessions in North Africa, are relatively few in number.

By the law of December 9, 1905, the Church is separated from the State, therefore the latter is not interested in any form of worship nor does it have a budget for worship; however it allows the cultural Associations, established by the followers of the individual cults to organize and subsidize the cults themselves. Upon separation between Church and State, the buildings intended for worship (churches, etc.) and the annexes were devolved to the said Associations; with a subsequent law of January 2, 1907 it was established that, in the absence of the Associations, these buildings would continue to remain for the use of ministers and practitioners of their respective cults, but after an administrative act drawn up by the prefect in the cases of buildings belonging to departments or to the state, or drawn up by the mayor in the case of municipal buildings. Ecclesiastics over the age of 45 and with more than 25 years of ministry were required to receive a pension from the state upon separation, and others who did not reach such extremes were entitled to gratification for 8 years. As for religious orders and communities, already before, with the law on associations of 1 July 1901, it was established that religious associations had to be authorized by the state, and that no monastic order could be authorized without a particular law for each individual case. These provisions, however, were not extended after the World War to the departments of Moselle, Lower and Upper Rhine, that is to say to Alsace Lorraine which had already belonged to Germany: a special regime is in force for these departments. Likewise, despite the separation law,  France currently has its own extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador in Rome at the Holy See.

According to, there are seventeen Catholic archbishoprics: Aix, with 6 suffragan dioceses; Albi, with 4; Auch, with 3; Avignon, with 4; Besançon, with 4; Bordeaux, with 6; Bourges, with 5; Cambrai, with z; Chambéry, with 3; Lyon, with 5; Paris, with 5; Reims, with 4; Rennes, with 3; Rouen, with 4; Sens, with 3; Toulouse, with 3; Tours, with 4.; there are also the dioceses of Metz and Strasbourg immediately subject to the Holy See. In all there are 17 archbishoprics and 72 bishoprics; to these must be added, in the various French colonies and possessions, 3 archbishoprics, 5 bishoprics, 24 apostolic vicariates and 6 apostolic prefectures.

The bishops are appointed by the Holy See, without any consent of the State, and the parish priests depend solely on them. The costs of worship fall on the faithful, who contribute according to rather complicated rules, but in a completely private and independent way from the state. However, the juridical condition of the Catholic cult and associations, especially after the World War, became much more favorable to them. The law against religious congregations is often not enforced, or is circumvented: many educational institutions are actually run by congregations, even though they are nominally headed by outsiders. Abroad then, and especially in places of mission or penetration, France has always favored the activity of its own congregations and other Catholic institutes. The French secular clergy is rather deficient in numbers: of the approximately 36,000 parishes almost a fourth part is without a titular; however, in recent times there has been a much greater turnout in ecclesiastical seminaries. Before the law of 1 July 1901, there were 910 recognized and 753 unrecognized associations in France; there were 19,514 religious houses, with 30,136 men and 129,492 women. French Catholics also maintain, at their own expense, five universities or higher education institutes: in Paris (with faculties of theology, law, etc.), in Angers (theology, law, literature, etc.), in Lille (theology, law, medicine, letters, etc.), Toulouse (theology, letters, etc.), and Lyon (theology, law, letters, etc.); also the Catholic faculty of theology at the University of Strasbourg.

After the separation law, the French Protestants formed their own Associations cultuelles, grouping themselves further according to the various tendencies: the Orthodox one constituted the Union des Églises réformées évangéliques, with theological faculty in Montpellier (transported there in 1919 by Montauban); the liberal tendency constituted the tnion des Églises réformées. Alongside these we should remember: the Union des eglises évangéliques libres, which includes about fifty communities; the Protestant Fédération, which includes communities of various confessions (Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist); the Église de la Confession d’Augsbourg, purely Lutheran which includes communities of Alsace, Montbéliard, Paris and Nice.

The Israelites also formed their own Associations cultuelles, at the head of which is a Consistoire Central made up of 52 members and chaired by the major rabbi of France. The associations dependent on the Consistoire are, in France and Algeria, about 75. In Alsace-Lorraine (Metz, Strasbourg, Colmar) the ancient organization remained, even after the annexation to France, with three departmental consistories dependent on the respective rabbis major: these are paid by the government. Paris is home to an École rabbinique for the training of rabbis.

France Religion