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Closed during the reconfinement, places of worship in France reopen their doors to the faithful for the first time on Sunday. The maximum level of 30 faithful established by the government remains disputed. Prime Minister Jean Castex is due to meet with religious authorities at the end of the day.
It is a special Sunday for places of worship. After having closed their doors during the month of reconfinement, they can again welcome the faithful Sunday, November 29, but within the limit of 30 people. A maximum gauge that the religious authorities contest despite the announcement of a possible relaxation on December 15.
“When you see the images of yesterday’s demonstration with this compact crowd, and think that in large churches there can only be 30 people, it’s absurd”, declared the bishop of Nanterre, Matthieu Rouge, on BFM TV, referring to the rallies against article 24 of the “global security” law which took place in Paris in the region.
The Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) has filed a request with the Council of State to obtain flexibility now depending on the size of the place. “Freedom of trade and industry and freedom of worship are not guaranteed in the same way,” lamented Me Guillaume Valdelievre, lawyer at the Council of State representing the CEF.
“The ban on religious ceremonies of more than 30 people in places of worship is manifestly disproportionate in that it does not take into account the size of religious buildings”, remarked for his part Me Antoine Delvolvé, another lawyer of the Council of State on behalf of the diocese of Paris. “La Fnac des Ternes (in Paris) put up a sign: + You can be 604 in the store. + But (this store) is smaller than Saint-Sulpice. This is discrimination that is obvious,” he said. asserted.
According to Jean-Benoît Harel, president of the association “Pour la messe”, the decision to limit the number of people attending services to 30 “has no scientific basis”.
Pascale Leglise, representative of the Ministry of the Interior, tried to defuse these criticisms. France is “not the only one” to have taken this type of measure. She denied any “stigmatization” of believers on the part of the French government. Comparing the situation of shops and places of worship is irrelevant, she also stressed. “In a store, people pass by, do not speak to each other, do not sit next to each other,” she noted, noting that theaters, cinemas, bars and restaurants remained closed.
“30 people (in a place of worship) is not a lot”, admitted Pascale Leglise but, she added, “we can have more masses not just on Sunday mornings”.
The decision of the interim judge is expected on Sunday. The religious representatives must then meet with Prime Minister Jean Castex at the end of the day.
AFP and Reuters