Two clergymen in custody after Easter mass without a mask

An Easter mass at Notre-Dame de Paris in 2019, before the pandemic. – Francisco Seco / AP / SIPA

  • Tuesday, “Le Parisien” unveiled a video showing priests not masked and not respecting barrier gestures during an Easter mass in the church of Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile in Paris.
  • According to our information, two ecclesiastics were placed in police custody on Thursday as part of an investigation opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office for “endangering the lives of others”.
  • But health protocol is reportedly not being followed in many other churches, including by the Archbishop of Paris himself, as “20 Minutes” demonstrated in an article on Wednesday.

They will have to respond to the justice of men. According to our information, the priest officiating in the Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile church in Paris (9th arrondissement) as well as one of his vicars were placed in police custody this Thursday morning. They are suspected of having officiated, last weekend, during an Easter mass without a mask and without respecting the barrier gestures in force since the appearance of the coronavirus epidemic.

Unveiled Tuesday by The Parisian, the images of the ceremony had led the Paris prosecutor’s office to open an investigation for “endangering the lives of others”. “This created a major social unrest which could give the feeling that the rule is not the same for all”, had moved a judicial source. The investigations are being carried out by the Department of local security of the Paris agglomeration (DSPAP). On the video, we could see a priest celebrating mass without a mask, giving the host to the faithful and blessing believers. The ceremony would have lasted nearly four hours in this church considered traditionalist in religious circles.

According to our information, this is not the first time that this parish and this priest have been implicated since the start of the pandemic. Two reports made on April 12 and 26, 2020, after the celebration of masses in full confinement, were attached to the procedure. Last spring, and contrary to this new period of restriction, all face-to-face religious events were banned. At the time, however, celebrations would have taken place in this church in a smaller committee, certainly, but without any respect for barrier gestures.

A canonical procedure in parallel

As early as Tuesday, the diocese of Paris said it was “stunned” at the sight of these images. “We are totally dissociating ourselves from this type of behavior, which does not comply with the rules given by the government”, had then indicated to 20 Minutes Karine Dalle, the diocese communications officer. In reaction, Wednesday evening, the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, also announced the opening of canonical proceedings (church law) against the parish priest of the Saint-Eugène-Sainte-Cécile church. .

But the parish of the 9th arrondissement of Paris is not the only one to be criticized for having organized ceremonies outside of compliance with the health protocol in force. The prosecutor’s office in Reims (Marne) has also opened an investigation for masses of the same kind which were held last weekend in the church of Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc. In Latin, they would have been organized by the Institute of Christ the Sovereign King, also considered as a traditionalist organization.

The mask no longer smells of sanctity

Beyond these two examples, several practicing Catholics were moved by a relaxation of health protection measures during the ceremonies relating to the Easter holidays. Relayed on Youtube by the specialized channel KTO TV, the images of last weekend’s ceremonies show, in fact, many clergymen not wearing masks when celebrating mass, such as 20 Minutes summed it up on Wednesday night.

During the “Paschal Vigil” celebrated on Saturday in the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, the Archbishop of Paris himself appears unmasked, including during the consecration of the Eucharist. We also see him affix his hands to the foreheads of catechumens who have come to be baptized without respecting social distancing.

Paris, April 3, 2021. The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, appears without a mask while celebrating a mass on the occasion of the Easter holidays. – KTO TV
Paris, April 3, 2021. The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, appears without a mask while celebrating a mass on the occasion of the Easter holidays.
Paris, April 3, 2021. The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, appears without a mask while celebrating a mass on the occasion of the Easter holidays. – KTO TV
Paris, April 3, 2021. The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, appears without a mask while celebrating a mass on the occasion of the Easter holidays.
Paris, April 3, 2021. The Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, appears without a mask while celebrating a mass on the occasion of the Easter holidays. – KTO TV

Confronted with these images, the diocese of Paris had explained that the priests celebrating mass sometimes took off their masks to be able to express themselves before putting them back on when the circumstances required it. While acknowledging receiving “regularly” complaints by email from some faithful.



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