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A church in Paris amid Covid-19 restrictions A church in Paris amid Covid-19 restrictions  (ANSA)

French Bishops call for “realistic” measures for the resumption of Masses

France will start to ease its COVID-19 lockdown this weekend ahead of the Christmas holidays. But in a statement, the French Bishops’ Conference has expressed disappointment at measures concerning the resumption of public worship, and is calling for clarification on the matter.

Vatican News staff writer

The worst of the second wave of the coronavirus is over: Those were the words of French President Emmanuel Macon as he gave a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening.

But he also warned, "We must do everything to avoid a third lockdown." With that in mind, he said restaurants, cafes and bars would stay shut until Jan. 20 to avoid triggering a third wave.

Easing of restrictions

This gradual easing of curbs means that from Saturday, November 28, shops will re-open following a month long lockdown imposed on Oct 30.

In mid-December, the lockdown will be lifted if the number of new cases has fallen to around 5,000 a day, and people will be free to travel across the country to see family and friends over the Christmas period. Theatres and cinemas will also be allowed to open their doors again.

France registered over 9,000 cases on Tuesday, and crossed the 50,000 deaths milestone.

Church response

However, not everyone is happy with the new arrangements. The French Bishops' Conference said in a statement the announcement of a resumption of public ceremonies with a maximum of 30 people was both "disappointing and surprising."

The statement went on to say that the matter was discussed in a phone call between the French President and the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort.

The Archbishop tweeted on Tuesday evening that Catholic voices were not heard and the Conference was asking that the measure be revised.

In an updated statement on Wednesday the Bishops said, "It appears that a realistic, yet strict, measure will be defined by Thursday morning for implementation in two stages: Saturday 28 November and then after the reassessment of 15 December." "It is in this perspective that the EFC (French Episcopal Conference) continues its dialogue with the offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior".

Prime Minister Jean Castex is due to hold a press briefing Thursday morning to detail Emmanuel Macron's announcement concerning the gradual lifting of restrictions.

So, for the time being, while the resumption of public worship in France is now a certainty, the way it is implemented continues to be subject to adjustments.

25 November 2020, 13:12