Record Easter Vigil baptisms in France reflect longer trend in secularized country – Detroit Catholic

PARIS (OSV News) — More than 12,000 people, both adults and teenagers, were baptized in France at Easter — a record number in a country experiencing what many church leaders have called an accelerating “de-Christianization.”

Demands for adult baptisms have been increasing in France over the past 10 years. In a report published just before Easter, representatives of the French bishops’ conference pointed out that the trend is present in almost all dioceses in France.

According to the report, 7,135 adults would receive the sacrament of baptism during the Easter Vigil — a number that was 31% more than in 2023. While in 2023, 23% of the newly baptized were between the ages of 18 and 25, which the number had risen to 36% in 2024.

In addition, over 5,000 teenagers aged 11 to 17 were baptized this Easter — 50% more than in 2023. To match these numbers, new teams of catechists had to be formed to help catechumens prepare for the entrance to the church.

“In today’s French society, 80% of young people have not received any religious education,” explained Father Vincent Breynaert, director of the National Service of Youth and Vocations, in the report presented on March 27. “They have very few preconceived ideas about the Church. What those who seek baptism have in common is that they had a spiritual experience and a personal encounter with Christ,” he wrote.

“Some say they were touched by the beauty of a liturgy (they happened to attend), the soothing silence of a church, a testimony of a friend,” Father Breynaert said. “They are hungry for formation, points of reference, brotherhood and a sense of belonging.”

The increase in requests for baptisms is observed in large cities. In the Paris region, the number of baptized adults is 27% higher in 2024 than in 2023. The same phenomenon can be seen in rural dioceses, where the shortage of priests is becoming more and more acute.

The church provinces where baptism requests have increased the most in 2024 are Besançon, Dijon and Clermont — all mostly rural. People from working-class backgrounds represent the majority of the baptized.

Although a large majority of adult catechumens come from families of Christian tradition, this number decreases every year (61% in 2024 and almost 69% in 2023), while people who declare themselves “from families without religion” are increasing significantly — they now represent a quarter of adult catechumens.

In addition, about 5% of newly baptized Christians come from Muslim families.

For Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras, president of the Council for Catechesis and Catechumenates, the movement to seek baptism is observed “on a surprising scale” and “it is very surprising to see the often completely unexpected path taken by those who ask to be baptized”.

“They come with a lot of energy,” he said.

During a press conference accompanying the release of the report, Jean-Yves Lépine, baptized in 2023 in the Diocese of Versailles, said the decision came about because of the people he met. “Obviously it’s the meetings,” he said, which include “attentive priests, a joyful and dynamic parish community. Through them, I discovered an open and welcoming church, and extremely diverse!”

He said that for him being part of the Catholic Church is “to experience that the good is better than the good”.

The influx of catechumens, even if it is a record, is by no means sufficient to compensate for the decline in the number of infant baptisms, which continues to decline. However, Bishop Leborgne revealed that Easter night in France was “particularly festive in many Catholic communities” in 2024.

“In a rapidly changing, often disoriented world and a Church no less so, it may be that God has decided to take the lead,” he concluded.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *