Churches in France reopened and resumed Masses on May 24, 2020 after more than two months of lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Christians flocked to various churches to hear Mass but under strict health protocols. Weeks before reopening, church leaders prepared places of worship to follow government rules. Authorities warned the public that non-compliance with the policies will result in closing of churches again, reports LifeSite News.
Every bishop must see with his priests which churches can open right away and which need more time to get organized. —Fr. Thierry Magnin, Bishops’ Conference of France spokesman
In addition to mandatory wearing of face masks, safety guidelines include giving space of not less than 4 square meters per churchgoer, organizing seating arrangements and providing hand sanitizing stations at the church entrance.
Since about 25% of churchgoers are allowed inside a church, up to three Masses are added to the usual schedule to accommodate believers. Some churches have an extra Mass on Saturday and two additional services on Sunday. For churches with big attendance, online registration is required for those who want to hear Mass.
Despite the official decree, some churches decided to postpone their reopening to the public for another week. “Every bishop must see with his priests which churches can open right away and which need more time to get organized,” said Fr. Thierry Magnin, Bishops’ Conference of France spokesman.
France’s Council of State ordered the reopening of places of worship since prohibiting religious services caused “damage that is serious and manifestly illegal,” according to The Local France.
Worshipers rushed to their local church after hearing the possible celebration of Mass.
“We knew 30 minutes in advance, we ran to come,” said Eliane Nsom, a mother of three. They were among the 40 people who attended a service at a church in Neuilly-sur-Seine, just outside Paris.
The government of France reminded believers to observe proper hygiene and sanitation practices while attending Mass.
Many experts warned that resuming public worship was too early for France, despite the decline in positive cases. However, epidemiologist Laurent Toubiana believes that the worst is over for France. “A significant portion of the population may not be susceptible to coronavirus, because non-specific antibodies to the virus can stop it,” he said.