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Religious geography

Regional disparities: the heritage of the past

In 1990, Louis Chauvel used the European Survey on Values to show that France is a regionally diversified country, especially as far as religion is concerned. This conclusion is confirmed and (...)

In 1990, Louis Chauvel used the European Survey on Values to show that France is a regionally diversified country, especially as far as religion is concerned. This conclusion is confirmed and illustrated by a study on the establishment of religions in France carried out in December 2006 by the IFOP. Data was obtained from 91 surveys which were conducted between 2003 and 2006 on a sample of 1,000 people in France chosen according to the quota method.
This geographic diversity of religions is mostly due to history. It is observable that the regions which are presently less practicing are those which followed the French Revolutionary movement, and where priest swore oath to the Law of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790. Furthermore, Catholicism, which has always been predominant in France, is presently the only denomination found in all the departments.

On this topic, consult: Louis CHAUVEL, "Clivages politiques, culturels et religieux dans les régions européennes", in Pierre Bréchon, Bruno Cautrès (dir.), Les enquêtes Eurobaromètres. Analyse comparée des données socio-politiques (Logiques politiques), L’Harmattan, 1998.

24 September 2012

The geographic establishment of Catholicism

The Catholics population varies, though, from region to region. According to the IFOP study on establishment of religions in France, the Catholic Church remains predominant in the East of the (...)

The Catholics population varies, though, from region to region. According to the IFOP study on establishment of religions in France, the Catholic Church remains predominant in the East of the country, mostly in Moselle which has a total of 81% of Catholics, the Vosges, Meuse and Haute-Saône. On the other hand, the West of France is diversified. The Catholics have a strong presence in the most rural departments like Manche, Mayenne, Deux-Sèvres, Maine-et-Loire, and Vendée. However, it has a less strong presence in the most western urban departments like Ille-et-Vilaine and Loire Atlantique. Morbihan remains predominantly Catholic and Côtes-d’Amour is being dechristianised while Finistère takes the intermediate position.
The Massif-Central, a region which was traditionally very Catholic (Haute-Loire, Cantal and Lozère), remains Catholic even though the numbers have slightly gone down. The predominantly Catholic zone now goes all the way from the Eastern region to Corrèze. However, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aveyron, Rhône-Alpes and other regions which were traditionally Catholic are now just above the national average.
Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the industrial region, remains Catholic. On the other hand, the Catholic presence is clearly below the average in regions such as Limousin, Dordogne, Ariège and Vallée du Rhône.

24 September 2012

Atheism in France

According to the same study on the establishment of religions in France, 27.6% of the French population does not feel close to any religion. This is obviously due the decline of Christianity in (...)

According to the same study on the establishment of religions in France, 27.6% of the French population does not feel close to any religion.
This is obviously due the decline of Christianity in modern society. The a strong presence of left-wing political movements, especially the communist party can also be related to a strong presence of people who claim to have no religious affiliation. The western part of the Massif Central (Limousin, Dordogne and Lot, Centre), Champagne-Ardenne, Oise and Côtes d’Armor are presently experiencing a decline with regard to religion. Ile-de-France and Midi have the same fate as they were traditionally a stronghold of the communist party.
It has also been observed that there is a relationship between urbanisation and religious decline especially in Loire-Atlantique, Ille-et-Vilaine, Rhône, aso. The fall is mostly noticeable in Val de Marne where only 47% of people declare being close to Catholicism.
The east of France, which comprises Franche-Comté, Alsace and Lorraine, remains stable and is presently the region where religion still has a strong presence.

24 September 2012

A particular case: Alsace-Moselle

In Alsace-Moselle, religious affiliations differ noticeably from the rest of the country due to a particular history of this region (see the historical background). The IFOP study on the (...)

In Alsace-Moselle, religious affiliations differ noticeably from the rest of the country due to a particular history of this region (see the historical background). The IFOP study on the establishment of religions in France revealed that this region is presently the most religious in France. A majority of people are Catholic even though there are many Protestants and Jews. The Muslims community in this region originates, mostly, from Turkey.

The Catholic Church is predominant in Alsace-Moselle with about 1,900,000 members, which represents 75% of the regional population. The diocese of Alsace is the biggest in France, comprising 5 pastoral regions, 14 pastoral zones and 66 pastoral sectors. The number of parishes is estimated at 767 while vicar foranes are estimated at 67. On 1st October 1998, the number of priests in the diocese was estimated at 674. There were 137 religious brothers, 1,990 religious sisters and 47 permanent deacons.

Since 2006, the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace-Lorraine (Union des Eglises Protestantes d’Alsace Lorraine, UEPAL) comprises the Protestant Church of Augsburg Confession in Alsace-Lorraine (EPCAAL, Lutheran) and the Reformed Protestant Church of Alsace-Lorraine. In order to know the approximate number of its members, the UEPAL depends on the numbers provided by the pastors. Their criteria for defining a parishioner may vary from the person who came once for a funeral service to a committed Presbyterian councillor. Furthermore, each church has its own special system of financial contributions. The EPCAAL defines a standard scale to be paid by each member of the church. The EPRAL shares its expenditure according to the financial means of its parishes. Some parishes are able to contribute large sums of money despite the relatively small number of its members and vice versa. It is, therefore, possible that during their evaluation, the reformed parishes magnify numbers with the aim of exalting their own parish. On the other hand, the Lutheran parishes may be less enthusiastic in this area as they would not want to see the scale rise.
The Parish electoral list is neither a reliable indication of membership as registration is voluntary. A dispute may cause enlargement of the electoral list. However, some regular members may be uninterested in voting as there are often as many posts as the candidates.
Practices and social fabric also vary greatly. For example, there is a difference between the less vibrant Protestantism in rural Moselle, and the dynamic urban community in Strasbourg. It is, therefore, hard to come up with the exact number of Protestants in Alsace as there is no precise membership indicator. The EPAL has an approximate number of 430 pastors, 210,000 Lutheran members and 30,000 reformed members. It prefers, therefore, to estimate the number of the members of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches to 300,000 people.

The Jewish religion in Alsace-Moselle, which is mostly practiced by the Ashkenazics, expanded due to the Sephardic community which joined it during the expatriation of the French who were then living in Algeria. Presently, there is no reliable reference that can give the exact Jewish members of the three consistories. The registry of the communities gives a few indications. However, there are orthodox or liberal groups living on the fringe of traditional communities. The population is, therefore, estimated at 20,000 members and it is on a falling trend.

The information has been provided by public relations office of the UEPAL, Protestant Churches of Alsace-Lorraine and the Jewish Consistory of the Bas-Rhin in August 2006 and the Diocese of Strasbourg in March 2007.

24 September 2012

Religious minorities grouped together geographically

Protestantism comprises 2.1% of the French population and is much felt in regions such as Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté. According to the IFOP survey of 2006, these regions represent 8.8% of (...)

Protestantism comprises 2.1% of the French population and is much felt in regions such as Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté. According to the IFOP survey of 2006, these regions represent 8.8% of the national population and more than 28% of the protestant population. Protestants are very few in the western and northern regions of the country, especially in Bretagne, Maine, Centre, Bourgogne and Savoie.
The Reformed Churches are well rooted in their historic regions, especially in Bas-Rhin, Territory of Belfort, Drôme, Lot, Gard and Ariège even though Evangelic Churches are emerging in Bretagne and Nord. Almost 15% of Protestants are situated in the Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes regions. They are also present in Ile-de-France and haute-Normandie.
The protestant map of presence confirms, even today, the establishment of what was called the "protestant crescent" stretching from La Rochelle to Drôme including peripheral regions like Ardèche, Haute-Loire, Gard cévenol, Hérault, Lot, Deux-Sèvres and Ariège. From this survey, among others, the IFOP draws a conclusion that the sociological and geographical differences between Protestants and Catholics are slowly disappearing.

According to the same IFOP study on establishment of religions in France in France conducted in 2006, there is a high concentration of people who claim to belong to Judaism and Islam in the most urbanised areas. These two religions also have a very low representation in rural areas like Massif Central, Poitou-Charentes, Centre and Champagne-Ardenne. Concerning Islam, this information is confirmed by the 2009 IFOP study, implantation and evolution of Islam in France.

Almost half of the Jews, representing 0.6% of the population, live in the Parisian region. There is also a large community living in Strasbourg. The rest of their population settles mostly in the south of France where big cities like Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Toulouse are home to large communities of Jews. The Jews living in these cities are mostly Sephardic while those living in Alsace and Moselle are Ashkenazic. The Atlantic coastal regions going from Gironde up to Bretagne rank the last as their Jewish population reaches just above the national average. This is undoubtedly due to retired people settling in the coastal towns.

Islam represents 3% of the population and has a strong presence in the regions of Paris, Lyon and Bouches-du-Rhône. It is also present in numerous small towns except in the west of France. This strong presence is due to the migration of North African Arabs who settled in Nord and Haut-Rhin to work in the Peugeot car factories. They are also found in Val-d’Oise which has a Muslim population of 14.3%, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and the department of Loire where they work the firms. Furthermore, they are rooted in the Parisian Bassin and in regions like Somme, Oise, Seine-Maritime, Eure-et-Loire and Loir-et-Cher. The Mediterranean coast, which is geographically close to North Africa, has also accommodated a massive amount of Arab immigrants thus, the reason why Islam is highly represented in regions such as Hérault, Gard and even more in Bouche-du-Rhône. And once again, immigration is responsible for a high concentration of the Muslim population in border zones, big urban areas and their suburban zones and former industrial and mining areas. In France, the establishment of Islam is well defined. It follows a line from Le Havre, through Valence, going all the way to Perpignan. Muslims are mostly present in the east of this region.

See the 2009 IFOP study, implantation and evolution of Islam in France.

A map of the geographical localisation of places of worship of Evangelical and Muslim denominations in France has been established by the journal La Croix in 2006.

6 November 2012

The map of the Catholic church in France

The journal La Croix has published on line in June 2014 the map of the Catholic church in France. It gives the number of baptisms, marriages, and priests for each diocese. In May 2010, the (...)

The journal La Croix has published on line in June 2014 the map of the Catholic church in France. It gives the number of baptisms, marriages, and priests for each diocese.
In May 2010, the journal La Croix had also published on line the results of a survey conducted in all the French dioceses. The map shows, for each department, the number of incardinated priests, of seminarists, and of retired priests. It also illustrates the number of inhabitants per priest.

17 September 2015