French court orders lifting of Covid-19 ban on public worship

The Highest Court in France has ordered the Government to lift the ban on public worship.

The ban had been imposed in the Covid-19 lockdown in March, and remained in place when some restrictions were eased last week.

In a judgement on Monday, the Council of State said the ban is no longer proportionate, and now represents a “serious infringement” of freedom of religion

It has given the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, eight days, starting on Monday, to lift the prohibition.

At the end of April, the French Catholic Bishops had expressed their displeasure when it was announced that churches were to remain closed for public mass until June 2nd.

“Honestly, we are extremely disappointed,” Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit said. “They don’t trust us. Why can markets, little museums and mediatheques open up and churches can’t? That doesn’t make sense.”

Bishop Matthieu Rougé from Nanterre had said “The Catholic Church in France wants a responsible ecclesial ease of lockdown, at the pace of the rest of the society, and we presented a very rigorous plan in terms of distance between the faithful inside churches, at the entrance and exit, during processions, proposing liturgical adaptations and the possibility of wearing masks”

He lamented that the Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, made the announcement without even having explicitly responded to the bishops’ proposed plan for Phase 2.

He suspected “an anticlerical bias in general, maybe anti-Catholic in particular”.