Drive-through confession during lockdown in France

A priest has started hearing drive-through confessions on Saturday mornings as a way of bringing spiritual comfort to people.

Situated in a church parking area in Limoges, the “confessional” established by père David de Lestapis enables people to drive around a tent to where the priest, sitting on a chair, can hear them speak through the lowered car window.

The open nature of the parking means that it is easy to check that no-one else can hear what is said.

With the exception of funerals, which have a limit of 20 people attending, all communal religious activities have been banned during the lockdown.

The government said the ban will stay in place until at least June 2.

Père de Lestapis, the priest in charge of Saint Jean-Paul II parish, which has three churches attached to it, got the idea after seeing reports of drive-in church ceremonies in the US and drive-through confessions in Poland.

“It seemed a good idea and I thought I would give it a go, especially as members of our congregation had said how much they were affected by not being allowed to celebrate Easter in Church,” he told Connexion.

He got permission from the Bishop of Limoges before announcing the initiative on social media.

The first morning three people attended for confession in the advertised two-hour time slot, with eight last weekend, which is about the number who normally attend Saturday confession sessions in the church.

“The fact that someone is in their car allows a certain discretion,” said père de Lestapis.

“It is not very different from other occasions when we hear confessions outside, such as in church camps.”

Messages of support have come from members of the parish who say they are happy that the priest is thinking of imaginative ways to help them during the lockdown.

As for the motive on the attestation for people attending confession, the priest suggested with a laugh, health reasons, with an added I to the Santé so it becomes Sainté.

“For Catholics, there is something therapeutic about going to confession, to seek forgiveness, and for some people it is an important part of living their faith,” he said.

“Our hearts need to find peace and to be healed in these difficult times.”

The parish is to hold another drive confession next Saturday, after which, with the easing of restrictions, it hoped to return to the interior of the church.

The bishop of Limoges, Monseigneur Pierre-Antoine Bozo published an open letter to the government after the announcement of the ban on religious services till June 2, in which he said it showed the government “did not understand and probably holds in low regard all that is represented by the religious part of humanity.”

He said it was astounding that chocolate shops have been able to open for some time, and that other shops will be allowed to open on May 11, yet religious services were banned.

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