I received a kind message from an American friend forwarding me this text about the closure of churches during the present lockdown in France.
Dear friends, I would like to ask for your prayers for Catholics in France, who are leading a terrible battle for the reinstatement of the Holy Mass. They lost the legal challenge last week, but the silver lining is that their Bishops joined them in the challenge. Now, they are lawfully organising peaceful protests for tomorrow, in more than 100 places throughout the country- all lawfully predeclared, according to the Law, to the relevant authorities. But the French authorities have today forbidden those lawful demonstrations to take place outside churches. They can go ahead, but in other public places. In one city, the authorities have forbidden those taking part tomorrow to pray, “even in silence” (their words!). Yesterday, the French Prime Minister, Gerard Darmanin*, made threats towards Catholics, saying he would not hesitate to prosecute…The French Catholics need our prayers, they are fighting for religious freedom, not just for France, but for Europe. Thank you and God bless you.
* The French Prime Minister is Jean Castex. Gérard Darmanin is Minister of the Interior.
I live in France and we all know about the lockdown. I am rather clear about this whole thing. There is suppression of religious freedom only if this Covid-19 pandemic is a hoax and part of a conspiracy to bring mankind to some kind of Orwellian dystopia. Could this be an elaborate hoax even with the high numbers of people in hospital suffering from Covid-19 and not primarily from other diseases? How could this diabolical plot be known only to conspiracy theorists and no one else? Only in these conditions would closing churches be constitutive of a persecution rather than a hygiene measure as during the Spanish Flu of 1918-20.
Lockdown affects us all. It is designed to limit our social life which is the primary cause of infection. This second lockdown has been designed to allow work and the economy as much as possible. Many shops have to close to keep people out of the streets as much as possible. Closing churches is only a part of this strategy. The problem is the lockdown. Is there any other way to fight the pandemic other than “letting rip” and hoping that not too many people will die or getting the population vaccinated? Either there isn’t or we go the way of the conspiracy theorists – and regret it when we catch the virus.
I think this pandemic can teach Christians – Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed – that religion isn’t first and foremost political action and socializing. We can learn about solitary contemplative life, praying the Office and devotions, reading the Scriptures and the Fathers, learning some theology – many things that can be done from home. Priests can “stream” Mass or make video recordings, which can help to an extent. The flood will subside and the sun will shine again, and the churches can be made ready for a new revival like in the Romantic era of the Oxford Movement and the holy Curé d’Ars. I think the French Revolution was worse than our pandemic, and we should get some perspective…
Here is my Mass of this Sunday with the readings and my address in French.