The ban on celebrating public masses as part of the new confinement does not pass in the Church of France. While the autumn assembly of bishops began Tuesday morning until Sunday by videoconference – the session scheduled for Lourdes was canceled at the last minute – the president of the episcopate, Mr.gr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, undertook an unprecedented step: to file, on Tuesday, an appeal before the Council of State in order to obtain the possibility of celebrating masses publicly.
A legal action which comes in addition to the seven other appeals of the same type already filed separately at the Council of State, at the end of last week, by several Catholic associations and by five bishops. The latter also publish in Le Figaro (read page 17) a call to “freedom of worship».
Letter to the Prime Minister
The date of the hearing of the Council of State, seized with urgency, was even to be known as of Tuesday and to be fixed before the end of this week. On May 18, the summary judge of the Council of State – seized by Catholic associations for the same reasons during the previous confinement – had recognized that “The freedom of worship presents the character of a fundamental freedom” and that it included “Among its essential components the right to participate collectively in ceremonies, in particular in places of worship”. This had forced the government to review the ban on places of worship.
The same arguments are, this time, opposed to the confinement decree of October 29, 2020, which largely incorporates the decree of last spring. With two major and new objections. One considers that there is a serious violation of the fundamental freedom of worship for not having provided – in the circulation forms – for the very possibility of going to a “place of worship”, if only for pray there. The other is that the limitation of one “kilometer” and one “hour” daily favors the inhabitants of the big cities who would like to enter a church to the detriment of those of the countryside.
On the matter of the prohibition of masses, the episcopate had been rather passive last spring: no bishop, and even less the episcopal conference, had dared to file an appeal before the Council of State. Only Catholic associations of lay people or priests and a political party, the Christian Democratic Party (PCD), had done so.
Why this change in strategy? It was brought to the attention of Figaro that the president of the Bishops’ Conference, Mr.gr Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, wrote a firm and official letter, but not public, Sunday, to the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, for a solution to be found in order to allow Catholics to attend masses. The prelate then threatened to enter into “litigationWith the government through legal recourse – as the Conference of Bishops – if a «solution» was not found. But it was an end of inadmissibility which was communicated to him by the Prime Minister’s office on Monday, followed by a more official negative response from Jean Castex.
It is this dialogue of the deaf that therefore pushed Bishop de Moulins-Beaufort to take legal action. Last Thursday, had he not made the round trip to Nice, in the context of the attack, with the President of the Republic, to whom he had officially written, on October 27, to ask for the freedom of mass? Moreover, on the same day, in the evening, he had met, alongside Mr.gr Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, Prime Minister at Matignon.
SEE ALSO – Closing of churches: Monsignor Aupetit affirms “to find solutions” to continue to celebrate masses
For this second confinement, there is added strong pressure from many French bishops who had rather called for calm last spring but who do not support, this time, the ban on celebrating while schools and certain businesses are open. . “There has been no cluster in all the churches in the territory since the resumption of worship“By a strict and scrupulous application of hygiene measures during the celebrations, recalled Mr.gr Aupetit at the microphone of Franceinfo, Monday morning.
Finally comes the pressure of the faithful and priests, many of whom are overwhelmed for the same reasons. (our editions of October 31). A petition that was launched by two young lay people on the internet, “pourlamesse.fr”, which will be sent to Emmanuel Macron, has thus just exceeded 65,000 signatures in just 4 days.