French Catholics hold protests over ban on church services during lockdown

French Catholics protesting a ban on large church gatherings during a month-long partial lockdown held street prayers in several cities over the weekend.

French Catholics hold protests over ban on church services during lockdown
Protests demanding the resuming of Mass in Versailles, near Paris. Photo: AFP

While places of worship remain open during the second nationwide lockdown, which began on October 30th, regular prayer services are banned.

More than 300 worshippers gathered outside the cathedral in the south-western city of Bordeaux on Sunday to demand that mass be reinstated.

Some said prayers or sang hymns, despite the gathering being billed as a protest, prompting the police to call in the organisers for questioning.

A protester in Strasbourg holds a sign saying 'let us pray'. Photo: AFP

On Saturday, some 250 faithful gathered outside Rennes cathedral, where they also prayed. Similar protests were also held in the northeastern city of Strasbourg and Nantes in the west.

Most of the protesters wore masks.

In Paris, however, authorities banned a gathering outside Saint-Sulpice church, citing health concerns over the spread of the coronavirus and fears that some would illegally pray on the street following a smaller prayer gathering Friday at the site.

Under France's latest measures to fight the virus, churches can celebrate funerals and weddings, with a maximum of 30 people and six people present respectively, but larger gatherings are banned.

During lockdown places of worship remain open, but services are banned. Photo: AFP

France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, on Saturday rejected an appeal by Catholic groups against the ban.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had warned he would not tolerate a second weekend of protests following

“Life is more important than anything else, and life is about battling the coronavirus,” he told France Info radio on Friday.

Opponents of the ban argue that people are more at risk of contracting the virus in supermarkets, which remain open, than in a church where social distancing is enforced.

Member comments

  1. What an extraordinary sentence : “fears that some would illegally pray on the street ” – is praying now illegal thanks to Covid? What is the difference between saying a prayer and shouting a slogan, I wonder….?

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday.