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French Catholic bishops win appeal against 30-person Mass limit

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The French Council of State has ruled that a proposed 30-person limit on Masses and other forms of public worship is a “disproportionate” government measure and must be modified by Dec. 2.

The country’s Catholic bishops welcomed the decision Nov. 29, saying in a statement that “reason has been recognized.”

The bishops’ conference had submitted the urgent legal appeal with the administrative court two days prior, declaring that they had “a duty to ensure freedom of worship in our country.”

With its ruling, France’s highest administrative court gave Prime Minister Jean Castex three days to propose an alternative protocol to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at places of worship.

The prime minister met with a delegation of French bishops Sunday night to discuss a new gauge for the resumption of public Masses after France’s strict second lockdown. 

The bishops had originally proposed a protocol of reopening public liturgies at a third of each church’s capacity, with increased social distancing.

“I found the prime minister to be fair after the decision of the Council of State,” Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, said after the hour-long meeting, according to France Bleu radio network.

France’s minister of interior and director general of health were also present at the meeting at the prime minister’s residence, as well Bishop Dominique Blanchet of Belfort-Montbéliard, Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, and Bishop Stanislas Lalanne of Pontoise.

Moulins-Beaufort said: “It went well. We told the prime minister that his brutal decision could have hurt some people. He understood it well.” 

Moulins-Beaufort, the archbishop of Reims, has been a primary point of contact in the bishops’ negotiations with the French government since public Masses were suspended on Nov. 2. 

On the night that the 30-person limit for the resumption of Masses was announced, Nov. 24, Moulins-Beaufort spoke on the telephone with President Emmanual Macron to communicate the French bishops’ disappointment.

France has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 2.2 million recorded cases and over 52,000 deaths as of Nov. 30, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Catholics in Paris have begun a novena, which will end on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. They are asking for the intercession of St. Denis, St. Genevieve, St. Louis, St. Vincent de Paul, and other saints of the country known as the “Eldest Daughter of the Church.”

With the 30-person limit overturned, some Catholic churches resumed Sunday Masses Nov. 29 with an online system to reserve a spot at Mass. 

In a homily in the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne in Toulouse, Fr. Simon d’Artigue said: “It is not in Mr. Macron or Mr. Castex … that we put our hope because they will always disappoint us.”

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43 Catholic priests have died in Italy’s 2nd wave of coronavirus

Rome Newsroom, Nov 30, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Forty-three Italian priests died in November after contracting the coronavirus, as Italy experiences a second wave of the epidemic.

According to L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, 167 priests have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in February.

One Italian bishop also died in November. A retired auxiliary bishop of Milan, Marco Virgilio Ferrari, 87, died Nov. 23 from the coronavirus.

At the beginning of October, Bishop Giovanni D’Alise of the Diocese of Caserta died at age 72.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, was critically ill with COVID-19 earlier this month. He is continuing to recover after testing negative last week.

Bassetti, the archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve, spent 11 days in intensive care in a hospital in Perugia, before being transferred to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital to continue his convalescence.

“In these days that have seen me go through the suffering of the contagion from COVID-19, I have been able to experience the humanity, the competence, the care put in place every day, with tireless concern, by all the personnel,” Bassetti said in a message to his diocese Nov. 19.

“They will be in my prayers. I also carry with me in memory and in prayer all the patients who are still in the moment of trial. I leave you with an exhortation of comfort: let us remain united in the hope and love of God, the Lord never abandons us and, in suffering, he holds us in His arms.”

Italy is currently experiencing a second wave of the virus, with more than 795,000 positive cases, according to the Italian health ministry. Almost 55,000 people have died from the virus in the country since February.

New containment measures were introduced at the beginning of the month, including regional lockdowns and restrictions such as curfews, shop closures, and no dining-in at restaurants and bars after 6 p.m.

According to national data, the curve of the second wave is on the decline, though experts report that in some regions of Italy infections numbers have not yet peaked.

In April, bishops across Italy visited cemeteries to pray and offer Mass for the souls of those who had died from COVID-19, including priests.

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