At the end of a difficult year, marked by the coronavirus pandemic but also by the trauma of the Nice attack of October 29, Catholics in France benefited from more flexible measures in order to be able to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord.
Cyprien Viet – Vatican City
While containment measures have been tightened in some countries on the occasion of the Christmas feast, in France, on the contrary, the inhabitants have had the opportunity to meet with family, the curfew being exceptionally suspended at night. from December 24 to 25. They were also able to gather in churches, respecting the physical distancing measures and respecting maximum gauges adapted to the size of the buildings.
The Catholic Church has had to adapt and be creative in order to allow as many faithful as possible to participate in Christmas Masses. In some dioceses, the number of Masses has been doubled or even tripled. The conference of bishops of France specified on December 24 that 14,200 masses for Christmas night were recorded on the portal Messes Info.
Unusual places could also host the celebration of the Nativity. In the commune of Levallois-Perret, in the Paris region, the diocese requisitioned the local Sports Palace in order to expand the gauge to 750 people for each of the celebrations offered.
Also near Paris, the circus tent of the Compagnie Alexis Gruss, where all shows have been suspended since the end of October, was exceptionally able to reopen its doors to host the Christmas night mass, for the 41e times this year. “We have done everything to preserve this tradition, this moment of communion”, explained Firmin Gruss, the administrative director of the Company, interviewed by BFM TV. About 350 people were able to participate in this celebration, chaired this year by Mgr Philippe Marsset, auxiliary bishop of Paris, and hosted by the Musical Academy of Notre-Dame-de-Liesse, an institution based in a village in the Aisne. The quest was intended for L’Œuvre d’Orient.
A moment of consolation for the people of Nice
For the Catholics of Nice, the Christmas party took on a special tone this year. The diocese of Nice has indeed experienced several painful events in recent months, between the coronavirus pandemic which has claimed many victims and brought the entire cultural and tourist sector to a halt, the floods which devastated several villages in the region. hinterland of Nice during the first weekend of October, and the attack of October 29 which left three victims in the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption.
“I know all the frequencies that have scrambled our usual codes. How to forget Nadine, Simone and Vincent. The pandemic that is taking hold. Our valleys under strain and their inhabitants so severely affected in their lives ”, immediately recognized the Bishop of Nice, Mgr André Marceau, in his Christmas message. But he insisted on repeating that life must continue to register “In a dynamic of creation. Going forward, growing, growing, this is what is germinating at Christmas, in a fragile humanity. That of a newborn baby. A life is given, a gift from God. Because Christmas is that celebration, this gift made to humanity. In the Child-God, it is the strength of life that is announced. “
“The uncertainties are there, of all kinds. Many feel deprived of their freedom (s). And yet, what energies deployed, dedication, inventiveness, generosity to testify that life wins ”, insisted Bishop Marceau.
“The Christmas message is given in humility, and calls for growth. The Christmas child will be the Jesus testifying to God’s faith in Man, such will be his path. Christmas is a call to raise our eyes to the sky which is opening, to better see and serve our earth and our brothers and sisters in humanity: the future of man is not horizontal. The Christmas message is alive and well for all, men and women of good will, Christians or not. It deserves a party, let’s not waste it. Good Christmas!”, concluded the Bishop of Nice.
Reinforced security measures
In addition to the measures specifically linked to the coronavirus pandemic, these Christmas celebrations were also accompanied by an important security device around the churches. Many soldiers from Operation Sentinel had been deployed to ensure the security of religions, in a context of reinforced security since the attack on Nice. As on All Saints’ Day, some rural parishes have also benefited from protection measures. Throughout the territory, no incident was reported and masses were able to take place in good conditions.