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France coronavirus

Court orders French government to lift Covid-19 ban on places of worship

Priest celebrates virtual mass 25th Mar 2020
Priest celebrates virtual mass 25th Mar 2020 REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

France’s highest court has told the government that it must lift current restrictions on places of worship within 8 days.

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The court called the ban on church gatherings “disproportionate” and said it was “a serious and obviously illegal attack” on people’s religious freedom.

In an unexpected ruling on Monday, the government was told to lift the “wide-ranging and absolute ban” on meetings in places of worship and impose new measures “more in proportion with the risk factor and in line with the easing of lockdown.”

Religious people from many faiths were disappointed when restrictions on places of worship largely remained in place on May 11th although they were relaxed in other areas of life to help boost the economy.

The new ruling means that churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship can organize greater activities from next week at the latest.

Flexibility

Under the new arrangements, it is likely that there will be no maximum number of people allowed in a place of worship but numbers will be limited according to the size of the building and the feasibility of social distancing.

“Ten people in Reims Cathedral is completely different to 10 people in a small country church”, said Vincent Neymon, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops Conference of France.

The organization had previously drawn up a list of ideas to protect the public within catholic churches, such as administering communion using tweezers and equipping churches with hand sanitizer.

The president of France’s small Christian Democrat party, Jean-Frédéric Poisson was among the plaintiffs who took the case to the court but the news is likely to be welcomed by all faiths.       

 

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