In Lorraine, a mayor gives his compensation to save the village church

In Lorraine, a mayor gives his compensation to save the village church

Patrick Mangin, mayor of Saint-Maurice-aux-Forges (Meurthe-et-Moselle), donated all of his elected compensation to restore the church, closed to the public since 2012.

The hundred inhabitants of the tiny village of Saint-Maurice-aux-Forges, 60 km southeast of Nancy, greet, not without pride, an unprecedented gesture. Their mayor, Patrick Mangin, decided to donate his entire elected official’s compensation to the Lorraine Heritage Foundation for the repair of the municipal church. Or 50,000 euros, equivalent to six years of compensation. Objective set: reopening for worship by the end of the year.

A financing difficulty

Closed since 2012, the building requires upgrading to accommodate the faithful in complete safety. Overall cost of the estimate: 400,000 euros. Impossible for a village with an annual budget of 60,000 euros. As in many small towns, town halls have been responsible, since the law of separation of Church and State of 1905, for the maintenance of religious buildings built before that date. Like Saint-Maurice-aux-Forges, whose church was built between 1854 and 1856.

The mayor then turned to the Lorraine Heritage Foundation which did not grant him financial aid, on the grounds that “there are 30,000 churches like mine,” he explains. As for the State, “it has abandoned us. He prefers to give money for the shells,” he says in a bitter tone.

He then decided to take matters in hand, by creating, at the beginning of January, an Association to safeguard the heritage of the church of Saint-Maurice-aux-Forges, whose first general assembly was held at the beginning of March.. His goal ? The preservation and enhancement of the architectural heritage of the church by mobilizing all energies, both collective (associations, local authorities, businesses) and individual. And, of course, raise funds for the restoration of the church.

Unite above all

Determined, the man who presents himself as “a slightly lost Catholic” is ready to do anything to save his church, whose work had little interest to his predecessors. Patrick Mangin goes so far as to get personally involved in it. “As soon as I was elected, in 2020, I said that I would give my compensation to restore the church.” In mid-March, he announced that he had already paid the equivalent of 20,000 euros at the start of his mandate to the Lorraine Heritage Foundation. And the remaining thousands of euros were borrowed directly from a bank a few days ago from his personal funds.

“I am told that I am a unifier. Some initially had some reservations. Faced with the collective enthusiasm, today, everyone supports me. I already have three residents of the village who have committed to giving me €1,000 per year for the church,” says the elected official. “This fight has become that of an entire village, I am not alone, everyone is involved in it at their own level and with their skills. I have tears in my eyes”.

For Catherine, a resident of the village quoted by France Bleu, “he is truly an example”. It is an understatement to say that the inhabitants of the village are proud of him.

Call for donations

Two phases of work are already planned. The first, the most urgent to reopen the church within the year, aims to install an emergency exit and access for disabled people, as well as to bring the electricity up to standard. Quote price: 183,000 euros. The second involves repairing the roof and restoring a keystone damaged by an earthquake. An additional 200,000 euros to invest.

Today, only half of the work has been paid for. A call for donations was launched by the Church Heritage Preservation Association, in conjunction with the Heritage Foundation, which collects donations and makes it possible to obtain a 75% tax receipt.

As for the mayor, he is already planning to run again in the 2026 municipal elections to return all his compensation. “I have no other choice if I want to see this church standing and open,” he assures.

An open church in the heart of the village

Because that is his mantra: to make this church, located in the middle of the town, the beating heart of the village. To open it to worship, on the one hand, but not only: he aims to make it a real place of social and cultural life. The mayor is already planning to meet the bishop for the future. “I would like to present projects to him and see to what extent he allows us to use the premises.” Of course, there is no shortage of ideas for the hyperactive septuagenarian: theater, music lessons, reading workshop, storytelling evening for children… See you in a year!

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