‘Outlaws’: Defiant French Priests Break Lockdown Rules to Keep Churches Open to All

Facade of the medieval gothic cathedral of Lille, France
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Lille priests are rejecting the French government’s Wuhan coronavirus restrictions by allowing more than 30 parishioners in their churches at one time.

The archbishop of Lille, Laurent Ulrich, spoke out against the government’s restrictions, calling them “arbitrary, discriminatory and unrealistic”, and told the priests under him to “welcome all believers” into their churches.

On Sunday, shortly before mass at the Notre-Dame de la Treille Cathedral, Father Bruno Mary commented on the situation, saying: “We are not outlaws, we are just trying to be intelligent.”

“Monsignor Ulrich told us to do what we could with respect for sanitary measures,” he added, according to 20 minutes.

Father Mary said that he and his colleagues took in multiple groups of 30 people into the church, which typically holds around 1,200 people. “We organise ourselves as best we can, taking into account vulnerable people,” he said.

“We understand that the government is focused on the economy. People have to live. But churches are places of comfort that people need right now,” Father Mary said.

Over the weekend, the French Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, ordered the government to reexamine the restrictions on churches within three days, after arguing that they were “disproportionate”.

“If some establishments remain open to the public, [such as cinemas or theatres,] while places of worship remained closed, the activities carried out there are not of the same nature, and the fundamental freedoms that are at stake are not the same,” the Council of State said, rationalising that the freedom to worship has a different status and requires special protection under the law.

The Council of State’s order comes after several protests in early November by Christians outside of churches across the country after the government of President Emmanuel Macron introduced the 30-parishioner limit.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in various cities, including as many as 600 in Versailles and 400 in Nantes over a single weekend.

“We follow protocols, there has not been an outbreak of contamination in churches to my knowledge. We want to assert our right to Mass. This is a matter of freedom of religion,” one protester said.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)breitbart.com

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