a giant Christmas mass of 700 people organized in an ice rink in Gap

Four days before, the Rapaces de Gap hockey players played in the same place behind closed doors. This cult event is organized in the capital of the Hautes-Alpes.

A mass that leaves no one cold. Nearly 700 worshipers are expected at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday December 24 for a Christmas mass at the Alp Arena in Gap in full epidemic of Covid-19.

The ice rink of the city and the Rapaces hockey club is converted into a place of worship for the time of a service. But this mass, legal and organized in compliance with health measures, divided in the Haute-Alpine capital.

“We respect the rules imposed”

The diocese of Gap obtained last week the authorization of the town hall to organize this event. “We respect the rules imposed in France for places of worship. We could not be prevented because we scrupulously accepted the sanitary measures”tells France 3 Father Mickaël Fontaine, parish priest of Gap.

The latter will officiate on the ice rink of the Alp Arena. The ice rink was chosen because it can accommodate nearly 700 people, unlike the city’s Saint-Roch Church. The usual building for the family mass at Christmas can only accommodate 200 people this year. In Gap, the disorders are multiplied on this Christmas Eve. But to ensure the flow of faithful, the solution of the Alp Arena was essential.

“We wanted to avoid a massive influx of families to Saint-Roch and not squeeze our faithful into our churches. This place of replica is ideal and I think that we will not welcome 700 faithful”explains Father Fontaine.

This provision by the town hall requires the modification of the classification of this establishment eligible for the public (type X) to temporarily transform it into a place of worship. The law authorizes this temporary modification of classification subject to a favorable opinion from the safety commission.

A gauge set at a maximum of 700 people

At the entrance to the ice rink, tickets will be distributed. As soon as the maximum capacity is reached, no one will be able to enter the enclosure. All the people represented must be masked and hydro-alcoholic gel will be distributed by the parish.

“We have to be hyper-vigilant about sanitary measures. There will be two places between each person, for example.”

Father Mickaël Fontaine, parish priest of Gap

In the Alp Arena, outside the Covid-19 period, nearly 2,500 people, seated and standing, can fill the stands of the ice rink. With 700 people, the diocese of Gap respects the 30% of people admitted to a place of worship.

“An incomprehensible initiative”

On the side of the Raptors of Gap, this cult event goes badly. The hockey club has been playing behind closed doors for six months, a situation that is detrimental to its budget.

On Sunday, the Ligue Magnus team faced the Nice team without a spectator. And four days later, 700 people can fill the Alp Arena. Illogical for Gapençais officials who preferred to be ironic on social networks, saying that “the next matches of the Raptors will be played at the cathedral of Gap”

The municipal opposition also does not understand the decision to allow such an event in the city and castigates the mayor’s attitude.

“The support of the mayor of Gap for this initiative is incomprehensible and inconsistent, given the measures to close bars, restaurants, cultural and sports venues as well as restrictions for family reunions, she says on social media. This decision cannot be maintained as it stands, in the face of the health risk which still threatens our territory..

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