By decree dated November 1, 2020, the Council of State of the canton of Geneva, the cantonal executive, banned “religious services and other religious events accessible to the public” for health reasons.
Fr. Jean de Loÿe, prior of Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Carouge (Society of Saint Pius X) and Mr. Eric Bertinat, on Friday, November 6, filed an administrative law appeal with a request for suspensive effect to the Administrative Chamber - the administrative court of the canton.
This appeal emphasized that the celebration of Mass and the reception of the Holy Eucharist are essential moments in Catholic life, and that the decree directly infringed this fundamental element of Christian life, and freedom of worship.
Defended by attorney Yves Nidegger, the appeal was first presented to the Administrative Chamber in order to be able to benefit from a rapid suspensive effect and save the Sunday Mass. The Administrative Chamber finally referred the appeal to the Constitutional Chamber - a sort of Council of State (cantonal).
A second appeal was filed on November 27 by a group of Geneva citizens in connection with the episcopal vicariate.
On Thursday, December 3, the Constitutional Chamber of the Court of Justice granted suspensive effect to these two appeals.
The Constitutional Chamber found that “the contested measure constitutes a potentially serious infringement of religious freedom, because it was of an almost absolute nature.” It “poses a serious problem of respect for the principle of proportionality.”
In addition, the Chamber notes that “it has not been shown that places of worship were particular sources of contamination.” The chamber announced it will rule on the merits in the coming days.
It is a relief for Catholics to finally be able to access Mass again in the canton of Geneva and thus nourish their religious life.