As many French Catholics see it, to have denominational activities qualified as “non-essential” and therefore suspended by the authorities is nonsense.
Roman Catholic bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre, a town near Paris, says the restriction goes against something that is sacred to observant Catholics.
“Catholics in France suffer from not being able to meet for this essential moment: Sunday mass. Many do not understand that it is possible to shop in a supermarket full of shoppers, and at the same time it is forbidden to meet. in our churches in strict compliance with health precautionary rules, ”said Rougé.
Some Catholics strongly oppose the safe distance restrictions on worship and have decided to hold prayers on the streets in defiance of the authorities. They are asking the government to authorize public services.
Yann Raison du Cleuziou is professor of political science at the University of Bordeaux. He describes those who started the mobilization as young conservative Catholics.
He explains that these conservative Catholics have a long experience of holding street rallies in France. He notes that they mobilized in 2012-2013 against same-sex marriage. Since then, they have protested against legislation on bioethics and the possibility for couples to access assisted reproduction techniques. The professor notes what he says is their tremendous ability to mobilize their supporters and voice their concerns in the public space.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex held talks with representatives of different religions on Monday in a bid to clarify the government’s position and reassure them that places of worship could reopen as early as December 1, if the lockdown measures are lifted.
This would be good news for Father Cédric Burgun, a Catholic priest and vice-dean at the Institut catholique in Paris.
He says it’s reassuring to him that a schedule is now set for a reopening. However, he says this pandemic has been unpredictable and no one is controlling it. Burgun says people should remain cautious about how the pandemic progresses in the coming weeks.
Under current measures, churches can hold funerals with a maximum of 30 mourners and perform weddings with no more than six people present, but large gatherings remain prohibited.