“Obviously, we must contain the pandemic, but at the same time we must bear in mind that there are countries suffering far more than we are”, the French Bishops’ president has recalled, urging Western populations to maintain “a sense of proportion” on the coronavirus crisis.

– “We thought we were done with epidemics, but now we are more aware that we belong to the same fragile humanity”

Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, Archbishop of Reims and President of the French Bishops’ Conference, spoke to La Croix March 19 to urge Catholics to “take very seriously the instructions of hygiene and maximum confinement, since we are responsible for one another”, but also to warn them against “giving in to fear or panic”.

“We thought that we were done with epidemics in our countries”, de Moulins-Beaufort lamented as COVID-19 infections in France hit 12,612 and deaths, 450.

“But now, we are more aware that we belong to the same humanity, which is both extremely strong and at the same time very fragile”.

The prelate invited French Catholics and others to keep forever present that although we in the developed world are suffering through the coronavirus crisis, there are other places around the world dealing with the outbreak “that are at war, that are experiencing famine, etc.”.

“It is important that we do not withdraw into ourselves during this time of confinement, cultivating our anxieties, but that we always look at the vast world and think of those who are in greater distress”.

– “I am also thinking of those who are worried about their income. We are going to have to show solidarity”

Inviting all Christians “to fervently pray for those who will be struck by grief and who will suffer from being cut off” by the COVID-19 contagion – and describing as “very painful” the fact that some victims will die alone and without so much as a proper funeral, due to the health restrictions – de Moulins-Beaufort recalled that the French Bishops have convened a special day of prayer for this Wednesday March 25.

He also invited Catholics “to pray the rosary, particularly for the dead, the sick, caregivers who are working courageously and generously, and all those in difficulty right now”.

“During Lent, it is essential to keep our hearts wide open”, the Archbishop of Reims insisted.

“I am also thinking of those who are worried about their income. We are going to have to show social and familial solidarity. There will be many ways to be disciples of Christ and to put love of neighbor into practice”.

– “Confinement must not become a comfortable selfishness”

“Confinement must not become a more or less comfortable selfishness “, de Moulins-Beaufort went on, calling on Christians “to find ways to help” – to “call or write or send a care package to those who are elderly or isolated”, for example – and to never forget their “vocation is to mourn with those who mourn”.

“Of course, we could spend this time at home watching television shows, but it would be more profitable to engage in spiritual readings and to take time to pray alone or with our families”, the archbishop said.

“We must see this time, which can be long and disorienting, as a call to refocus on the essentials and draw on our inner resources”.

– “Will we be able to learn something from this at the collective level?”

Insisting that the coronavirus crisis “is not a question of thinking that God is punishing us, but of wondering what I can change in my life to live God’s love”, de Moulins-Beaufort said the outbreak must serve to remind us that “it is no longer possible to just run on the surface to make our lives always exciting”.

“I hope that this crisis will be an opportunity for us to question our individual and collective choices”, the French Bishops’ president continued.

“We know that we have to accept drastic changes in our way of life, especially with ecological constraints.

“Our planet is becoming exhausted, pollution is no longer bearable, inequalities are growing. Will we be able to learn something from the consequences of this at the collective level?”

Read all Novena’s stories on the coronavirus crisis


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.