French Bishops Launch Court Challenge To 30-Person Limit At Mass

French Bishops Launch Court Challenge To 30-Person Limit At Mass.

Catholic bishops in France have appealed to the country’s top administrative court, the Council of State, to challenge a 30 person limit for religious ceremonies imposed by the government as it begins easing the second Covid-19 lockdown. The move follows the French government’s decision to limit attendance at places of worship as part of its fight to stop the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement issued Nov. 27, the bishops said that they “have a duty to ensure the freedom of worship in our country” and therefore would file another “référé liberté” with the Council of State regarding the latest government coronavirus restrictions on Mass attendance.

A “référé liberté” is an urgent administrative procedure that is filed as a petition to a judge for the protection of fundamental rights, in this case, the right to freedom of worship. The Council of State both advises and judges the French government on its compliance with the law.

The Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) said its representatives would make their case to increase the numbers allowed for services during a meeting with French prime minister Jean Castex on Sunday evening. “Pending the outcome of these two steps, the rules set by the prime minister are in force,” said a CEF statement. “Even if we are all aware of the great difficulties in which these government decisions place the faithful.”

After detailing a range of measures to ensure Catholic services were conducted in a safe environment, there were hopes that more than 30 people would be allowed into masses for one of the key parts of the Christian calendar.

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Tony Winterburn

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