PARIS (AP) – From famous Gothic cathedrals to modest village churches, places of worship in France rang Wednesday in collective prayer for the deceased and those who help keep the sick alive during the coronavirus pandemic.
The benches were empty because the faithful, like most of the French population, were confined to their homes. But believers and unbelievers joined the expression of communion by lighting candles in the windows as the sun set over the Eiffel Tower and the monumental churches.
The bishops of France called on Catholics and non-Catholics to participate in lighting the candles in a “common prayer for the dead, the sick and their loved ones, for all the medical personnel and all those who make the life of our country possible. ”
The gesture was programmed for the Christian celebration of the feast of the Annunciation, which marks the day when the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was going to have a child. Christmas arrives nine months later.
The Grand Mosque of Lyon was also specially lit Wednesday evening. A prayer read in the minaret called for support for hospital staff and workers operating other public services during the national health emergency.
The rector of the mosque paid tribute to “those who, despite the seriousness of the health situation, are fighting with courage and humility to face this epidemic which affects all French people”.
With more than 25,000 known cases and more than 1,300 deaths linked to the virus in France as of Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron launched a military operation and pledged to invest massively in hospitals to combat its spread.
As night fell in the Parisian suburb of Pecq, the Reverend Emmanuel Gougaud pushed a button to ring the bells of the Sainte-Pauline church.
To make sure that the bells did not attract the crowd, the priest then locked himself inside and celebrated mass, all alone.