Church bells rang simultaneously across France at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, in a show of national unity amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and in commemoration of the Feast of the Annunciation.
Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit said that the ringing of the church bells shows “that there is a communion between the people whom the message of the Gospel invites us to build,” in an interview published in the French magazine Le Parisien on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s Feast of the Annunciation marks the Church’s celebration of the Archangel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Christ. In France, it also marked the ninth day of a national lockdown to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“In difficult times, it is the means to achieve unity, the unanimity of our country. Joy still lives in our hearts,” said Aupetit.
Since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in France in January, there have been more than 25,000 additional cases, and over 1,300 deaths from the virus.
On Twitter, the Archbishop of Paris encouraged Catholics and all French people to light a candle as a show of solidarity while the church bells were ringing.
Many people posted videos of the bells ringing in their local villages.
Church bells ringing in my village, as all over France «non pour appeler les fidèles à s'y rendre, mais pour manifester notre fraternité et notre espoir commun» pic.twitter.com/0kje2bNEgr
— Craig Drake (@csdrake) March 25, 2020
“Church bells ringing in my village, as all over France, ‘not to call the faithful to go there, but to show our fraternity and our common hope,’” tweeted Craig Drake. Dioceses in France suspended public Masses earlier this month, as mirroring similar restrictions in Italy, Spain, and the United States.
— Philippe GOSSELIN (@phgosselin) March 25, 2020
“Ring, ring, bells from our steeples, bells from our churches in France! Ring! And the next time, it will mark the end of this terrible pandemic!” tweeted Philippe Gosselin from the town of Saint-Lô in Manche.
Churches of other denominations joined the Catholic churches in ringing their bells on Wednesday. A video taken by Stephen Brown shows the bells tolling at a Lutheran church in Courbevoie, near Paris.
Church bells ring in France at 19:30 to support all those with Covid19 and those looking after them – in the background the local hospital pic.twitter.com/kHuv1Olpca
— Stephen Brown (@stephengbrown) March 25, 2020
In his interview with Le Parisien, Aupetit expressed hope that the suspension of Masses may lead to a renewed desire for faith among the French people.
“When you are thirsty, you become more and more thirsty. And when water is given to us, we drink in abundance. We are currently weaned from this communion, so I hope that we will live it more intensely when the epidemic is over,” he said.
Aupetit, who worked as a doctor for two decades before entering the priesthood, said that he is volunteering to treat the sick, and that fear of the virus was not a deterrent for him.
“I even think I caught it,” he said, noting that about two weeks ago, he lost his sense of smell, which was a symptom of the novel coronavirus.
“Fear does not prevent death, nor disease. The one who is afraid is unable to fight the virus,” he said.
“In a situation of distress, you have to arm yourself to be able to face it. And if it’s my hour, it’s the one God chose.”
Aupetit also preached a message of hope in his interview, saying that Christian hope is one of the things that can come from something evil, especially in this season of Lent and preparation for Easter.
“We can imagine more fraternity, delicacy, civility, a different look on others and those who do not think like us. We are not quite in the worst with this virus, it can still get worse. But now is not the time to let go,” he said.
“You have to be standing in hope. When Christ is crucified, we tell ourselves that everything is finished. Three days later, we celebrate his resurrection. The last word is not to death, but to life.”
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