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Thousands of French Catholics join protests against government ban on public celebration of Mass

'We were weak enough to sacrifice Holy Week and Easter, we will not have the weakness to sacrifice Christmas!' said Father Michel Viot in front of the church of Saint Sulpice, Paris, and hundreds of young people who also chanted Marian hymns and the Salve Regina. 


FRANCE, November 16, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Thousands of Catholics in France joined about thirty demonstrations over the past week-end in protest against the banning of public Masses under current lockdown regulations that allow citizens to shop in crowded supermarkets and use public transportation – including the ever-busy Parisian underground – tobacconists and public services. Primary and secondary schools are also functioning more or less normally.

The movement has been criticized by a number of French bishops in the wake of threats by the French Interior minister Gerald Darmanin who warned on Friday that there would be no “leniency” for Catholics who repeatedly ask for Mass in public demonstrations, even though these are duly declared and constitute a legal exception for coming out of lockdown. As the situation developed, it became clear that the French authorities are stepping up specifically anti-Catholic measures by allowing protests but coming down heavily on anything that looks like public prayers.

Here below is a chronological presentation of events since Friday morning when Darmanin issued his warning, followed by massive mobilization of Catholics but also repressive interventions on the part of the public authorities and the police.

Part I

The French minister of the Interior – who is in charge of public order and also of “religious worship” – Gérald Darmanin, warned Catholics assembling in front of churches that he would send the police in order to force them to observe lockdown rules and if necessary, fine them (135 Euros or about 150 US Dollars for a first offense).

Gérald Darmanin clearly stated on State radio FranceInfo on Friday morning: “I’m telling the Catholics of France – as I also tell the Jews of France and the Protestants – that freedom of worship is very important. We have left places of worship open: places of worship can go on doing worship, with a minister of worship who can continue to do his office and even film it so that during the few weeks of current confinement everyone can have a link with his or her religion. We respect that profoundly. But life is more important than everything. And life means fighting the coronavirus. I don’t desire to send police forces to issue tickets to believers who are in front of a church, but obviously if this is a repetitive act, and that is manifestly contrary to the laws of the Republic, I will do it.”

“Will you do it as of this weekend?” asked the journalist.

“I will do it as of this weekend. There was a weekend of leniency, the weekend during which we entered into confinement, it was also the final weekend of the school holidays. There will not be a second weekend of leniency,” warned Darmanin.

Previously, Darmanin had stated that he had stepped up police controls all over the country to ensure that lockdown measures are being observed by the population. Bars, restaurants and small shops are closed, and all people living in France are required to justify their every move outside the home with an auto-certification that allows them to go out only for one hour for individual walks or sports within a radius of 1 km, to do their shopping or to accomplish other “essential” acts. Book stores are closed and books may not be sold in supermarkets or other shops; nor may supermarkets sell any type of garment, make-up, kitchen appliances and so forth, in a Kafkaesque list of restrictions.

100,000 fines were handed out over the first two weeks of confinement up to Friday morning, with a whopping 12,000 fines over the 24 hours between Thursday and Friday.

Darmanin justified the measures by the number of COVID deaths but a yet to be determined proportion of these are deaths of people “with” COVID or “suspected COVID” rather than deaths directly attributable to the disease caused by the Chinese coronavirus. Examples of these of which I have direct knowledge are an in-utero death of a malformed baby that was attributed to COVID outside of the doctor’s knowledge; and the death of a 97-year-old woman from cancer, whose daughter was asked to accept the inscription “COVID” on the death certificate because that would ensure better subsidy from the Social Security system.

When the French Council of State refused to allow Catholics to assist at Mass, in a decision handed down on November 7, even though supermarkets, schools, public transportation and tobacconists are open under current lockdown rules, faithful in Nantes, Lyon and Versailles joined to pray the Rosary on Sunday in the forecourts of their cathedrals by the hundreds.

Their example triggered a wave of emulation as faithful in dozens of French towns and cities are set to demonstrate for the freedom of worship and the right to go to Mass, which is a true and real encounter with Our Lord in the Eucharistic presence.

Most of these rallies were formally declared beforehand to the local “Préfecture” which is the arm of the State in the French “départements.” While all gatherings beyond the strict family circle have been forbidden since October 29, the first day of France’s second lockdown, as well as meeting or spending time with friends or extended family during outdoor activities, “protest demonstrations” are still allowed provided they are declared.

Dozens of demonstrations were to take place over the weekend: one of the centralized lists of the initiatives of several associations is regularly updated by the “Salon beige,” a blog by young Catholics that played a major role in spreading the calls to action of the “Manif pour tous” in the fight against “same-sex marriage” in 2013.

The nationwide movement kicked off on Friday evening with an official rally in front of Saint Sulpice in Paris. “Suppressing Mass is equivalent to suppressing Catholicism…What is not negotiable is the necessity of the Mass...We need to prepare Christmas as it should be. We were weak enough to sacrifice Holy Week and Easter, we will not have the weakness to sacrifice Christmas! They can send all the police forces in France to inflict fines, even within our churches, but we will be there all the same,” said Father Michel Viot in front of hundreds of young people who also chanted Marian hymns and the Salve Regina.



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