The bishops said that the new measure would apply through the next two Sundays of Advent and then should be reevaluated on Dec. 15 on the basis of the latest health data. They expressed hope that Christmas liturgies would be able to take place with "the least possible restriction."
Vincent Neymon, spokesman of the French bishops' conference, wrote on Twitter Dec. 2: "It governs the capacity of churches until December 15. Afterwards, let us hope that the sanitary conditions allow more people and that Christmas 2020 will bring together all those who want to celebrate the coming of Jesus."
Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops' conference, has been a primary point of contact in the bishops' negotiations with the French government since public Masses were suspended on Nov. 2.
The Vatican announced that Moulins-Beaufort met with Pope Francis Dec. 3, along with the two vice presidents of the French bishops conference, Bishop Dominique Blanchet of Belfort-Montbéliard and Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras, and secretary general Fr. Hugues de Woillemont. The Vatican did not disclose any further details about the meeting.
France's current lockdown restrictions are expected to be lifted on Dec. 15. But a curfew will be enforced and bars and restaurants are likely to remain closed over Christmas. Shops have reopened and people are allowed to move within a 12-mile radius of their homes.
France has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 2.2 million recorded cases and over 52,000 deaths as of Dec. 3, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.