French bishops conference head Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort has said the recent pandemic shutdown had shown both the planet and its people needed "a real day of Sunday rest" and suggested France designate one Sunday a month as a locked-down day.
Responding to President Emmanuel Macron’s call for the faiths to share their post-lockdown reflections, he said the 10 weeks of “suspended time” had made people realise how modern life had led to "the constant acceleration of time”.
He said in his written reply: "Many have heard the birds again and have been able to observe the arrival of spring like never before in their lifetime.” Admitting it was probably “a waking dream”, he suggested a monthly “real Sunday rest … for people, but also for cities (and) the Earth.”
De Moulins-Beaufort, who is Archbishop of Reims, said: “Widening our horizons is probably the only way out of the trauma caused by the epidemic and the lockdown imposed on our societies.”
The lockdown period had highlighted the commitment of health workers and the “under-estimated trades that have proven to be essential”, he wrote, and these must not be forgotten afterwards.
The archbishop also hoped the experience of stay-at-home orders would lead to "essential investments so that everyone can have decent housing.”
Moulins-Beaufort saw a wave of solidarity in the widespread acceptance of limits imposed by governments and hoped this would lead to a new appreciation of the value of hospitality.
“The fear of being contagious has been transformed into a desire to be useful to others or to show kindness and attention beyond our usual circles,” he wrote. “The lockdown experience may have given us some cues about how to progress collectively in this direction.
The rapid propagation of the coronavirus around the world was “not due to the evil of a few but the many interactions among peoples these days,” he wrote.
“Doesn’t this lead us to think about migration? Why are certain people assigned to places on Earth where they cannot make a living?” He asked, saying societies had to consider both how to accept more migrants and how to help those who stay home to live there.
De Moulins-Beaufort also asked for hospital chaplains to be allowed more access to the dying, after being banned from accompanying them during the lockdown. “When you die, more affection is better than more medicine,” he wrote.
The bishops conference held its spring plenary on Zoom last week. At that session, Moulins-Beaufort defended his decision to follow government guidelines during the lockdown and not press more loudly for churches to reopen quickly.
“The freedom of the Church ... does not encourage the Church of Christ to claim privileges for itself,” he said. “The State is within its rights when it enacts health rules; it goes beyond its role when it seeks to determine how citizens shall implement these rules.”