Swiss cathedral to hold first Mass since Reformation

St Pierre Cathedral in Geneva  (Wikimedia/Torbjorn Toby Jorgensen)

The first Catholic Mass in nearly 500 years will be celebrated at a cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, later this month. Source: CNA.

Mass will be said in the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre de Genève on February 29, in a decision announced by the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg’s episcopal vicariate for the city.

The cathedral was the seat of the Catholic bishops of Geneva from the fourth century until the Protestant Reformation. The last Mass celebrated at the cathedral took place in 1535. After the Reformation, the building was taken over by John Calvin’s Reformed Protestant Church, which destroyed the cathedral’s statues and paintings, and banned Catholic worship.

Fr Pascal Desthieux, the Catholic episcopal vicar for Geneva, described the cathedral as the “central and symbolic location of Geneva’s Christian history” in a letter published on the vicariate’s website.

Following the Reformation, the cathedral became a location “emblematic of the Calvinist reform,” he said.

John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, lived in Geneva, and the city was a destination for French Protestants who were forced to flee France due to persecution. Saint-Pierre de Genève was Calvin’s home church and his chair is displayed next to the cathedral’s pulpit.

The Geneva Diocese was eventually absorbed into the Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. Today, just under 40 per cent of Switzerland is Catholic.

At the request of Geneva’s Protestant population, Fr Desthieux will celebrate the Mass and not Bishop Charles Morerod of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. But, Fr Desthieux said, Bishop Morerod views the Mass as an historic “local event.”

While acknowledging that the return of Catholic Mass to the cathedral is a cause for rejoicing, Fr Desthieux warned against any “triumphalism,” as well as any language suggesting the Catholics are looking to “take over” the building.

“With our Protestant brothers and sisters, who welcome us in their cathedral, we want simply to make a strong ecumenical gesture, a sign that we all live together in Geneva,” he said. The Mass is a “gesture of hospitality” within the Christian community of the city, said the priest.


First Mass since Reformation to be held in Swiss cathedral (CNA

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