Like every Sunday at the Church of the Saint-Sacrement in the 3rd arrondissement of Lyon, the mass took place in front of more than two hundred people. But this morning the homily was a little different. “During the ceremony, the priest said a word about the situation that between 40 and 50 unaccompanied minors have been experiencing for two evenings,” confided a person present at the scene.
Friday, December 8, at the time of the celebration of the immaculate conception, “several young migrants entered the religious building and asked to speak to the archbishop,” says Christophe Ravinet-Davenas, spokesperson for the diocese. “Monsignor Olivier de Germay spoke with them, after the procession towards Notre-Dame de Fourvière, around 11 p.m. And he decided that he would not seek their expulsion. The principle of the Church is to welcome. »
“This is the first time we’ve seen this in twenty years”
“This is the first time that we have seen such a situation in this church in more than twenty years,” assures Roland, one of the organists since the 2000s. For him, it is unacceptable to let “people live under a try and depend on associations.” “They are in the square opposite, they see a place unoccupied and open all day, it’s their last resort, I understand,” he says.
Echoing the words of the priest during the mass, Roland assures that “the role of this church is to welcome”. He nevertheless specifies that there was never any question of abandoning the cults. “When I arrived on Saturday evening, for the 6 p.m. mass, there was no problem. And neither this Sunday morning. Everything was clean, he continues. They are very respectful. » The only trace of their passage in the building: blankets stored near the walls and a power strip that allows the charging of several electronic devices.
For Élisabeth, a parishioner, the faithful are unanimous about the fate of these young people. “We situated ourselves this morning as Christians but also as citizens,” she says. The petition addressed to the mayor, the president of the metropolis and the prefect of the Rhône, to find a solution, made available in the church has collected more than 150 signatures today. Because even if “the house of God” welcomes everyone, “this is not its mission, from a health and safety point of view,” adds the organist. Temporarily, yes, but not in the long term. »
“It’s a thousand times better than being in tents”
Across the street, in Square Sainte-Marie-Perrin, the 130 young people installed in this makeshift camp are of the same opinion. “We need emergency accommodation,” explains Diallo. No one imagines what it’s like to live outside. No parent wants their child to cross several countries in order to have a better life and end up sleeping on the street. It’s cold, it’s raining, all our things are wet, everything is dirty… We can’t hold on any longer. It is urgent to consider us as human beings and to help us. Our health is deteriorating horribly. »
Diallo then considers himself lucky to have been welcomed by the church opposite. A week earlier, he had been chased out of a gym by police. “We found no other refuge than the church. We thank the priest enormously and we hope that it will only be for a while, he continues. We completely understand that this is unacceptable for the faithful, being a place of meditation and prayer. We were asked to leave at 9 a.m. for mass this Sunday morning. We were already outside at 6 o’clock. »
Discussions in progress
Bamba, also in this situation, adds: “We know that it is not a dormitory but a sacred place so we are very respectful. We only sleep on blankets, next to the benches. It’s difficult. But at least we’re dry. It’s a thousand times better than being in tents. And during the day, we stay opposite in the square. » This Sunday evening, like the previous ones, they will return to take refuge in the church, around 10 p.m.
For its part, the diocese, which met 80 young people from the camp on Saturday evening, recalls that “these very precarious reception conditions”, “without sanitary equipment”, without heating, cannot be sustainable. “We are just fulfilling our role in welcoming people. From now on, it is up to the civil authorities to resolve this problem, explains Christophe Ravinet-Davenas. Since Saturday morning, the archbishop has been in discussions with the town hall and the metropolis. It’s in progress. In the meantime, we’re doing it day by day. We rely on everyone’s good intelligence and the desire to find a solution. We believe in everyone’s good faith. »
For months, the Soutiens/Migrants Croix Rousse collective calls for the shelter of these young people from the metropolis and the prefecture. The latter indicated on Sunday evening that discussions were “effectively underway”. “We can only carry out the evacuation at the request of the owner, the diocese,” she stressed.
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