The cardinal of Luxembourg has expressed his “disappointment and anger” over the government’s refusal to negotiate the return of public Masses after COVID-19.
– “I think the government doesn’t care about us at all”
In a Mass last Sunday broadcast over the radio and the internet, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich voiced his displeasure at the fact that even though schools and small businesses reopened in Luxembourg May 11, public liturgical life has yet to be given the go-ahead to resume.
“I think the government doesn’t care about us at all. That disappoints and angers me”, was the archbishop’s conclusion.
In his sermon May 17, Hollerich recalled that since the beginning of the pandemic the Luxembourger Church has taken responsibility for the situation, putting a halt to Masses just as soon as the threat to public health became evident.
As soon as the government locked the country down in mid-March, the Church stopped public services with immediate effect, postponed baptism and wedding ceremonies and moved catechesis online, the cardinal said.
The Luxembourger Church’s quarantine on the sacraments – which was due to expire April 3 – was then extended to the end of last month, Hollerich recalled, and just as in other places around Europe Easter celebrations in the country took place without the faithful.
On April 20, the Church announced it was working on guidelines for a safe return to public Masses, which it finally presented to the authorities May 6.
Since then, however, Hollerich denounced that he has not heard a word from the coalition Democratic Party, Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party and Greens government of Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.
Bettel, who is also Minister for Education, has not even responded to a text message from Luxembourg auxiliary bishop Leo Wagener, Hollerich complained.
“Absolutely no reaction, no dialogue. If this is the place of the Church in Luxembourger society now, what will it not be in the years to come”, the cardinal denounced.
He added that he had spoken to bishops abroad about the lack of government consultation with the Church amid the pandemic, and “they were all appalled”.
– Personally affected by the pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis has affected Cardinal Hollerich personally: not only was he placed in a 14-day preventative quarantine early March after an employee in the archdiocesan curia tested positive for the virus, but he has also been pained by the fact that one of the high points of Luxembourger Catholic life, the 350-year-old early-May Octave Pilgrimage in honour of Our Lady of Luxembourg, had to be moved online this year.
On top of those two factors there is also the uncertainty surrounding events planned this year for the 150th anniversary of the diocese, and the fact that immigrant Catholics in Luxembourg – a collective Hollerich knows well – are missing particularly intensely these days the sense of community that the Church provides.
There is also the issue of religious freedom, which the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) that Hollerich presides warned May 6 was under threat because of COVID-19-induced restrictions all throughout Europe.
But perhaps there is still hope that Masses in Luxembourg with all the proper safety precautions will be able to resume promptly after all, since after the cardinal’s public complaint, Prime Minister Bettel agreed May 19 to a meeting Friday between the government and religious leaders in the country.
It is important that services are allowed again as soon as possible, Bettel said, even if he was reluctant earlier this week to set a specific date for when churches, synagogues and mosques can hold gatherings once again.
The Luxembourger government’s decision on when public religious life can resume is not expected until May 25 at the earliest.