Five priests shot during the Paris Commune, including Henri Planchat, were beatified on Saturday April 22, some one hundred and fifty years after their “martyrdom” during a ceremony at the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris presided over by a representative of Pope Francis.
The Saint-Sulpice church, which can accommodate up to 2,500 people, was full for this ceremony, which was attended by the Archbishop of Paris, Laurent Ulrich, bishops and members of congregations, noted Agence France. -Press (AFP).
A letter from Pope Francis, who granted a 127-year-old request in March to beatify the five religious, was read during the mass. In his missive, the head of the Catholic Church asked that these men “may henceforth be called blessed [titre conféré aux personnes béatifiées] and be celebrated annually on May 26”.
From 6,500 to 20,000 dead
The priests Henri Planchat, of the congregation of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Ladislas Radigue, Polycarpe Tuffier, Marcellin Rouchouze and Frézal Tardieu, of the Picpus congregation, were shot on May 26, 1871. Their portraits appeared on a large banner suspended behind the altar. These executions took place during the “bloody week” – which saw several massacres in the capital in May 1871 – the last chapter of the insurrection of the Parisians after the French defeat against Prussia.
The historian and specialist of the Commune Eric Fournier sees in this beatification “a return of a clerical, conservative memory of the Commune”.
Aware of the controversy, Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, representative of Pope Francis, mentioned “a complex story” and called to pray for all the dead of the Commune.
The brief revolutionary adventure of the Commune ended in a bloodbath, with thousands of deaths – from 6,500 to 20,000, according to historians –, and remains a major reference for the French radical left.
The five priests beatified on Saturday had been held prisoner for several weeks by the communards. About thirty gendarmes and four supposed “snitches” had also been executed on May 26, 1871.
In November 2021, the Vatican recognized the “martyrdom” of these ecclesiastics (because they are “died in hatred of the faith”), paving the way for their beatification.