Spiritual movements in France

Spiritual movements in France

The destiny of the people together with their historical events has contributed over the centuries to the various cultures and religions in our country.

From a majority of Catholicism in the Gallo-Roman period to the recent installation of Asian communities following Buddhism or Hinduism, through the historic episodes of orthodoxy and the Christian reforms, right up to the spread of Judaism and Islam, France keeps the respect and the memory of all faiths and beliefs.

Catholicism, , in spite of a recent and certain decrease in the number of regular churchgoers, still represents two thirds of the French population today. Established in Gaul in the 2nd century, strengthened by the coronation of the first converted king (Clovis, in 481), the original Catholic church (known as Roman) played an essential role in the political as well as spiritual history of the country. France was home to the Papacy in the 14th century (in the city of Avignon). Christianity suffered persecutions during the Revolution but also stirred up veritable civil wars by itself (against the reformed churches). It also built up a marvellous heritage with many religious buildings (Romanesque abbeys, gothic cathedrals, etc.), most of which are works of art. A very important date was 1905 when a law was passed to separate the Church from the State (which proclaimed itself republican and secular).

Protestantism groups some 1.2 million followers today, in various Protestant or Lutheran churches (founded on an ancient European reformist movement), Baptists, Evangelists (mainly of Anglo-Saxon influence) or Pentecostalists (especially overseas). The history of the reformed church in France is dotted with important and often tragic dates (the Saint Bartholomew massacre in 1572, etc.), which have also marked political life, the destiny of several regions and the "great" history of the country: from the Cathar "heretics" or Waldensian converts in the 13th century to the Calvinist Reformists in the 15th century and the religious wars (no fewer than 8 wars throughout the 16th century) up to the Cevenol Camisards in the late 17th century.

Orthodox Christianity now has 750,000 followers in France. It is made up of several churches, of Greek, Armenian, or Slav origin or those known as Oriental (the Coptic Church of Egypt, etc.). If the origins of Orthodoxy go back to the beginnings of Christianity, it really came into being with the schism in 1054. It is present in France because of the fairly recent settlements (since the 19th century) of different communities (Russian, Greek, Armenian, etc.), especially in Paris and the south Mediterranean.

Judaism today numbers some 500,000 people France, originating from a very ancient presence (the "Ashkenazim") and more modern movements. The first Jewish populations (known as Ashkenazim) travelled throughout central Europe during the Roman Empire before settling in France from the 9th century onwards (under Charlemagne) and suffered various fortunes and misfortunes in the 14th century (the Papal enclave in Avignon) and the 15th century (immigration of Spanish Andalusian Jews known as the Sephardic Jews) and since the Revolution. Tragic periods (like the deportations in the Second World War...) and an influx from North Africa after the decolonisation in the 1960s also marked the journey through France of this community imbued with its thousand-year-long Diaspora.

Islam numbers about 4 million followers in mainland France, with a wide range of expressions. The Muslim faith (from Spain) began to settle discreetly in the south of the country in the Middle Ages. A second period occurred early in the 20th century with a labour force from Turkey, ex-Yugoslavia, etc. And the development of economic trade and the aftermath of decolonisation in Africa has amplified this movement in the last fifty years or so.

Buddhism teaches its values to about 400,000 people in France, including a large majority of Asian origin, especially since the 1960s. More and more followers from Europe are now adopting this philosophy of wisdom, which also has its rituals.

Hinduism accounts for a community of some 150,000 members, made up mainly of Indians or Pakistanis and Mauritians who settled here in the 1950s, mostly in Paris.

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