May 13, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — In a pastoral letter to all the faithful of his diocese, Bishop Bernard Ginoux of Montauban made an impassioned plea for the rights of Catholics to practice their religion (read full letter below).
The bishop made it clear that no civil law can overturn the fundamental right of religious liberty. He pointed out that for Catholics, Mass is much more than a mere community gathering; it is the renewal of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
His strongly worded letter received widespread attention in the French Catholic media.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and its “sanitary” measures (which Bishop Athanasius Schneider has called a “sanitary dictatorship”), Bishop Ginoux has been particularly outspoken and courageous.
In one of his most recent tweets reacting to an article in Le Monde about possible compulsory vaccination and nano-chipping, Bishop Ginoux said: “Watch out! Danger! The liberty of each person is being violated in the name of a good. We must say no.”
Last Sunday, in another tweet, he wrote: “#Mass. Yet another Sunday of suffering (despite the fact that we are in the joy of Easter) for all those who are unjustly deprived of the Eucharist. I am with you.”
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Ginoux commented at length on the continued prohibition of public worship, stating: “Our freedom is at stake and it is being seriously undermined.”
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He added: “I denounce the violation of the rights of the Catholic faithful to participate freely in Mass; I denounce the denial of this right. Civil law, whose binding nature in this matter remains to be proven, cannot be imposed on my conscience as a pastor when it prevents me from fulfilling my duty. I am a priest and bishop in order to give Christ to the faithful in need. This is my mission and I want to tell them so. The Catholic Church has always recalled the right of the human person to practice his religion. Preventing the exercise of this right is an infringement of fundamental human rights that could lead to other abuses.”
Bishop Ginoux also insisted on the specific need for Catholics to join Mass physically, especially now the coronavirus epidemic is receding and at a time when many other activities are permitted.
Below is LifeSite’s full translation of Bishop Ginoux’s letter.
On May 11, 2007, I was appointed bishop of Montauban, and since my ordination on September 2, 2007, I have endeavored to fulfill my mission with dedication and concern for the common good. This mission is coming to an end as the canonical age of retirement draws near. The weeks that we have just experienced have been an ordeal that for some will have led to death and for others to the struggle with illness. Many have suffered because of measures of protection so rigorous that their mental health has been more severely affected than their physical health. I think of all the elderly who were not affected by this virus. Of course, they had to be protected from it, but was it necessary to cut them off from their natural ties to the point where grandparents were forbidden to see their grandchildren? If consistent preventive measures had been taken and if the necessary tools (such as masks) had been given from the outset, family tragedies would have been avoided. We are also well aware that some of these people allowed themselves to die. Among younger people, suicides were caused by accumulated tension. An honest assessment of these realities will have to be made.
But these facts do not detract from the work done by the caretakers, lives given in the service of others, efforts made by many anonymous people in their determination to fight COVID-19. The Catholic Church has not failed to be present on the most exposed fronts and in its permanent service of charity, especially with populations in difficulty such as migrants. She has also accepted the draconian measures which have not allowed us to live the great moments of our Christian faith, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, Holy Week, the heart and foundation of faith in Christ who died and rose again. We have accepted this despite the immense sense of loss that our faithful have surely experienced. Their suffering has been somewhat mitigated by broadcasts and all the audio-visual techniques. The fact remains that our faith is not nourished by these means; the Catholic faith is nourished by the real presence of Jesus Christ. The Church is realized unceasingly through the sacrifice of the Mass, where Christ's unique sacrifice on the cross is made present. The Mass introduces us to him, makes him present and makes us participate in what is the “banquet of the Lord”: we truly take our place at his table. It is not a time of prayer or even a simple listening to the Word of God, still less a fraternal gathering. We can do without all this, but we cannot do without the Eucharist, just as we need the other sacraments. Mass is the life of the Catholic Church. Even though we are united to Christ in many ways, we live by him through the Eucharist.
At a time when a very large number of activities are resuming, when we can find ourselves next to each other on an airplane, in supermarkets, or in outdoor activities such as at the racetracks, a part of the citizenry who have the freedom to practice their religion by participating in Mass is prevented from doing so under the pretext of a pandemic whose numbers are declining. The numbers speak for themselves. Moreover, most of our churches are very large, and we have all the means to comply with health measures. Our freedom is at stake, and it is being seriously undermined. I have heard from many people who are suffering, and I am speaking on their behalf.
I am a bishop in a place where, one day in August 1942, Bishop Pierre-Marie Theas dared almost alone to condemn the attacks on the freedom and dignity of French citizens. We have not reached this point of ignominy. But I denounce the violation of the rights of the Catholic faithful to participate freely in Mass; I denounce the denial of this right. Civil law, whose binding nature in this matter remains to be proven, cannot be imposed on my conscience as a pastor when it prevents me from fulfilling my duty. I am a priest and bishop in order to give Christ to the faithful in need. This is my mission, and I want to tell them so. The Catholic Church has always recalled the right of the human person to practice his religion. Preventing the exercise of this right is an infringement of fundamental human rights that could lead to other abuses. This letter is an appeal to the conscience of the Catholics of the Diocese of Montauban, which is dear to me and of which I have been the pastor for thirteen years. Knowing that you can live your faith freely will be a strong pastoral joy for me because, even in times of great epidemics, the Church, albeit with precautions, has always offered to the People of God the presence of the Savior through public worship.
I entrust to the Blessed Virgin Mary, honored in the Cathedral of Montauban under the name of Our Lady of the Assumption, the diocese and all its inhabitants. May she watch over us and keep us under her protection.