Parishioners wearing protective face masks pray at Graslin square during an open air mass in Nantes, as public masses are suspended during the second national lockdown as part of the measures to fight a second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in France, November 15, 2020. REUTERS
Catholics held an open air mass in the western French city of Nantes on Sunday to protest against COVID-19 restrictions, under which masses are banned in churches.
Some Catholics also gathered by the Saint Louis Cathedral in Versailles, near Paris, but police banned a demonstration planned by Catholics in the capital.
In Nantes, which is home to one of France's best known cathedrals, dozens of people, wearing face masks, knelt down with umbrellas in pouring rain to pray in the central Graslin Square, and to support calls for public masses to resume.
"It is very hard for us. It's like we are being deprived of our food. We need our spiritual food. When we are deprived of our mass, it is like being deprived of our food," said Jerome Duchesne, a protester taking part in the ceremony in Nantes.
Duchesne said the masses should resume since churches and cathedrals could easily adopt COVID-19 sanitary protocols, such as by having sufficient spaces between worshippers.
As part of a lockdown that came into effect on Oct. 30, large public gatherings in all religious venues have been banned, due to fears that the COVID-19 virus can spread rapidly in enclosed spaces.
Earlier this year, a large religious gathering in the French city of Mulhouse resulted in a big COVID-19 cluster during the first wave of the virus in February and March.
In Paris, police stepped up controls over the weekend to ensure residents were complying with lockdown rules.