(Paris) In France, the judges restore public celebrations. The Supreme Administrative Court opposed the government, which announced numerous easings on May 11, but still wanted to ban services.
The situation in France is similar to that in Italy. On May 4, the government also announced “Phase 2” of the Corona measures on the Apennine Peninsula. While the curfew was lifted and many things were allowed again, the re-admission of public Mass remains excluded. There was discontent and hectic behind-the-scenes negotiations. Pope Francis himself had to intervene with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Finally, public Masses were re-opened on Monday, May 18th.
Comparable easing came into force in France on May 11, but the public Masses were excluded. For weeks, the government of President Emmanuel Macron, led by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, was deaf to the wishes of the Catholic Church. The appeals by the bishops and 67 members of parliament faltered. Now the State Council repeated the request and did it not as a petitioner, but with the authority of a supreme court. The Conseil d'État ordered the government to lift the general and absolute ban on church services.
Édouard Philippe and the Laicité
That the Christian faith plays no special role for the French elites, but rather is marginalized, is part of the state doctrine. So it is not without irony that the scolding comes from the State Council, the institution where Édouard Philippe began his steep career.
He sees himself as an intellectual frontier worker, others see him as a careerist. 1995-1997 he graduated from the elite Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA) where in France, its innermost circle of public servants is formed. The red carpet to power was rolled out to him. His political affiliation is dazzling. However, this only applies if one measures politics according to party labels and less according to content. In the 90s he was a member of the Socialist Party (PS) and sympathizer of the left wing around the ENA graduate Michel Rocard. In 2002, the Gaullist and ENA graduate Alain Juppé raised him to the top as a full-time party official for the civil start-up UMP, whose liberal wing included Philippe. With the political ticket of the bourgeois president and ENA graduate Jacques Chirac (UMP), he received a director position in the state-owned group Areva (today Orano) in 2007. They had noticed him.
In 2011 he participated in the program to support young scientists of the French-American Foundation, the French equivalent of the German Atlantic Bridge, which included the association of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). In 2012 he was elected to the French parliament for the UMP. Since the Socialist Hollande became president, Philippe squeezed into the opposition benches. Formally, he was only one of 577 MPs, and also an opposition figure who was not noticed in the parliamentary committees or in the plenary. Nevertheless, he was destined for higher tasks. Backbencher Philippe was invited to the Bilderberger conference in 2016. The Socialist and ENA graduate Emmanuel Macron, who was then Minister of Economics in the Hollande government, had already been invited to this exclusive meeting in 2014. It was an unmistakable sign. Indeed, for in 2017 Macron became President and made Philippe Prime Minister. Macron, who'd conveniently disposed his Socialist party credentials, put himself at the top of the opposition, En Marche. For Philippe, who at the time already changed his party alignment for a fourth time, at last joined the Republican (Les républicains), in a barely credible way, so he was no party. This digression was necessary to briefly introduce the real political system in France.
Federal Court Boxes Government's Ears
The Supreme Administrative Court, which examined the objections of Catholic movements and organizations, came to the conclusion that an even longer suspension of public Masses "in a serious and apparently illegal manner" violates religious freedom and should be replaced immediately by a less restrictive measure. The Federal Court gave the government eight days to do this.
The government's current provision was "disproportionate to the goal of maintaining public health." Rather, it questions a fundamental freedom that "also includes the right to participate in ceremonies collectively".
The verdict is a resounding slap in the face for Prime Minister Philippe, who also wanted to maintain the ban on worship in the so-called "phase 2" of the Corona measures and announced that it could be eased by June 2 at the earliest.
The French Bishops' Conference welcomed the verdict. In their comments, they pointed out that it was entirely in line with what they had written to Philippe in a letter on May 15 without being heard. The bishops now expect the restrictions to be lifted within the next few days. Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the President of the Bishops' Conference, had already hoped for the resumption of the Masses with the end of the "phase 1" of the Corona measures and informed President Macron via video conference that church life "will be back on May 11th, and fully restored to a community character.” With government decree of the 11th, the Federal Court has now led the government back to common sense in its own way. At the same time, it put additional reins on the Macron government by banning the use of drones by the police to monitor citizens' compliance with corona measures. Corona measures of this kind have also sparked a discussion among the French public about the danger of an authoritarian regime.
This had also contributed to worrying attacks, some of which involved the church when some armed police invaded the Paris church of Saint-André-de-l'Europe in Paris and required its immediate termination, although in only a handful of people were present. Monsignor Michel Aupetit, the Archbishop of Paris, reacted with unusual clarity:
"There were no terrorists in the church! It's time to put an end to such scenes. Otherwise we will speak and speak. "
Such attacks on the church would have to be avoided, "otherwise we will be very loud," said the archbishop.