A group of French Catholics from the southern city of Toulon have this week purchased a local gay gay after the establishment filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.
The Missionaries of Divine Mercy, a Catholic group described by The Local as ‘hardline’ and ‘traditionalist’, have stated that they intend to close down the local bar and convert the site into a religious community centre. The move to purchase the bar was condemned by the former owners and a number of activists many of whom have labelled the group’s actions as an attack on the local LGBT community.
Speaking earlier this week, one representative of local LGBT-rights group Gay Power Toulon claimed “To them, it’s like Satan is right next to their church”. He also noted that the church had been attempting to purchase the property for years, following ongoing disputes between church-goers and the LGBT-community.
On the subject of the purchase, the group published an official statement in which the former bar was described as ‘the bar of Sodom’. The group also stated that the site, which is on the same street as their church, was purchased as an effort to ‘evangalise the neighbourhood’.
Further investigation of the event also revealed that the group’s efforts, despite being seen as extreme by many, were also supported by French Catholic authorities. According to one report the group purchased the property with the support of a priest of the diocese of Toulon, who donated €15,000.
News of the bar’s closure has caused much upset among Toulon’s LGBT-community. Former owners describe the bar as a hub of the gay scene that was popular with local gay men. Concerns were also raised that former patrons now face even more difficulties in meeting potential partners.