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A look at ... the province of France

A eventWednesday, 17 April 2024

France and the health crisis April 2020

President Macron, in a televised speech on March 13 announcing the confinement, had strong words about the necessary transformations in our economic models and lifestyles: he spoke of necessary 'ruptures'. He also spoke of the need to protect public goods: "What this pandemic reveals is that there are goods and services that must be placed outside the laws of the market. Delegating our food, our protection, our ability to care, our living environment to others is madness. "What is the point?

The situation in France is contrasted on all levels: sanitary, social, economic and ecological. On the one hand, the crisis is an unprecedented opportunity to force us to slow down, to encourage a decrease in our over-consumption activities, to reflect on our individual and collective vulnerabilities, to become aware that, faced with the unsustainable nature of our habits, other paths are possible. Numerous solidarity initiatives have been launched: to applaud the carers and other workers for the common good who are returning home, from one's balcony, at 8 p.m., to call up those who are isolated, to renew family and friendship ties, to support associations and people in great precariousness... Companies have mobilized to change their productive apparatus and to make masks for the carers.

On the other hand, the future is very uncertain, and it is not obvious that macro-economic and social transformations in favour of more ecological and social justice will take place: the drop in the price of fossil fuels is jeopardizing investment in renewable energies; the relocation of a certain number of production sites, the necessary transformation of professions and forms of work, require investments that are not currently envisaged; confinement is a source of redoubled inequalities, between white-collar workers who can telework and the workers and actors who ensure the maintenance of public services and access to basic goods and services, between those who have the resources to cope with the shocks linked to a drop in economic activity and those who are hit hard, without a safety net. Some experience the confinement in favourable material and cultural conditions, others experience it as a confinement that leads to monotony, fatigue and even violence - and the risk is then to return to previous ways of doing things without wanting a change.

To prepare for the times to come, the challenge is therefore our collective capacity to look at all these realities from the point of view of the most vulnerable: the people seriously affected by COVID, certainly, but also all those for whom this crisis represents a double punishment. In this context, the Church in France, very damaged and bruised by the scandals relating to paedo-criminality, sexual abuse and the phenomena of moral and psychological hold on the part of very committed priests, religious and lay people, has experienced, like many Christians throughout the world, a form of trial: a Lent without public celebration, without physically gathering together. Through diverse voices and multiple commitments, Christians work with others to encourage breakdowns and prepare the world of tomorrow. Perhaps in these unavoidable detachments suffered, as in all measures of social distancing, we can experience, in the daily reality, the deepening of social bonds in attentive listening, in the beneficent word, in the awed gaze, in the beauty contemplated, in the compassion shown.

Our Communities live the confinement in the diversity of the geographical situations of the Province: some with quarantine of Sisters, or of the whole Community for a time (at Bondy), all with the concern to nourish fraternal links in a different way, ad intra and ad extra. Creativity is at the rendezvous to weave friendly and supportive networks in our homes and with neighbours, relatives, etc. The ‘Campus de la Transition’, where I live with a Jesuit and 24 young people (professionals, interns, students in civic service, volunteers), has launched an online course on "resilience and transition" to accompany those who can take time to learn about the challenges of transition, in a reflective and interior perspective, attentive to the emotions that this health crisis provokes, with a view to various commitments.

For our schools, flexibility, adaptation and commitment are sought after: to support students and help them organise themselves and find their rhythm, to facilitate links between teachers and between schools, to take advantage of this period to reflect and test pedagogical innovations.

In this Easter time, we celebrate the victory of Life over death. May the Risen Christ, who goes before us in our Galilee, in all our places of confinement, help us to live in a state of uncertainty, support all our collective conversions towards a world of sobriety in solidarity, and make so many seeds germinate and bear fruit for more justice, peace and care for our ‘common home’.

Cécile Renouard r.a