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Police drag Catholic priest out of Paris church in anti-demolition protests

Riot police officers in Paris (AP)

Correction: an earlier version of this article described the priest as a Gallican priest. This was wrong: while the church was formerly used by the Gallican church, it has more recently been used by priests of the Institut du Bon-Pasteur which is in good standing with the Church. We apologise for the mistake.

A Catholic priest has been dragged out of Mass by Paris police in an evacuation of a church marked for demolition, according to reports.

Protesters barricaded themselves inside the church of St Rita last night. Dozens joined a sit-in protest this morning against the demolition of the church. It is to be replaced by a parking lot and housing, a decision which has angered many parishioners and other locals.

Twelve cars of riot police were called to the site this morning to force protesters out. Pictures emerged of a priest being forcibly dragged out of Mass.

Since 2015, the church has been used by priests of the Institut du Bon-Pasteur.

Mining work has started in preparation to knock down the church.

Dominique Philippe, a priest of the Gallican church, which has previously used St Rita’s although the Gallicans are not part of the Catholic Church, has said that if the demolition plans go ahead, priests will have to celebrate Mass on the street.

St Rita is known as Paris’s “animal church”: pets are allowed in, and the church holds a Mass at which pets, including camels and parrots, are encouraged to come for a blessing.

The dragging of a priest out of the church – according to some reports, while saying Mass – has caused uproar on Twitter after images emerged, with the hashtag #SainteRita being used thousands of times.

Some Twitter users said the eviction was especially shocking after the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel last week.