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Catholic priest apologises for saying Eagles of Death Metal gig inspired by Satan
A French priest has apologised for describing the heavy metal gig where 90 people were killed by Islamic State attackers in Paris last month as "inspired by Satan". Another priest has been suspended for describing the victims and their killers as "Siamese twins". During this month's regional elections right-wing candidates accused a heavy metal festival of "condoning Christianophobia" and "inciting violence".
"I regret fuelling a controversy about some musical genres. It was completely inappropriate and indecent," Francois Schneider told his parishioners in the town of Wissembach in north-eastern France on Sunday, according to his diocese.
In a homily shortly after the 13 November Paris attacks, he described the concert by the Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan venue as "inspired by Satan".
A total of 130 people were killed and over 160 seriously injured in the attacks.
The homily prompted members of the congregation to complain to his diocese.
"Sometimes we are overwhelmed when faced with the diversity and strangeness of some artistic expressions," Schneider said on Sunday.
Another priest, Hervé Benoît, was relieved of his functions at Lyon's historic Fourvière basilica after publishing a virulent attack on the band and its fans on the conservative Catholic website Riposte Catholique.
"Look at the photos of the audience just before the tragedy," he wrote, describing them as being in an "ecstatic trance ... living dead", whose murderers were "their Siamese twins".
While 130 deaths were "appalling", Benoît said, "What about 600? That's the number of abortions in France on the same day."
Catholic Cardinal Philippe Barbarin advised the priest to "take some time for reflection" on a retreat in an abbey and presided over the funeral of one of the Bataclan victims.
While steering clear of the sensitive question of the Paris attacks, the leading candidate of the far-right Front National in the eastern Pays de Loire region this month accused France's biggest heavy metal festival, Hellfest, of providing a platform for "rock groups who clearly condone Christianaphobia" - a term widely used by conservative Catholics in attempts to shut down artistic events that offend them.
Writing on a blog for opponents of the festival, now in its 10th year, Pascal Gannat hinted that the region should no longer help finance the festival.
The regional council contributed 20,000 euros to an estimated 16-million-euro budget this year.
While not going as far as Gannat, the leader of the mainstream right-wing Republicans' slate, Laurence Garnier, told local television that she was "shocked by some of the groups' lyrics", describing them as "incitements to violence", although she admitted that she had never attended the event.
Conservative Catholic groups and politicians have launched petitions and appeals against Hellfest in the past and this year the site was vandalised and religious graffiti found after the attacks.