Covid-19 epidemic outbreak during an Emmanuel retreat: what happened?

► What did the retreat consist of?

The retreat was organized for 190 members of the Emmanuel community from October 22 to 25, in the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Montligeon (Orne) which hosted the meeting. The participants of this annual meeting of the Emmanuel Community came mainly from Brittany and the Pays de la Loire. They were lodged in the hostelry of the sanctuary. The Emmanuel community is an association of faithful Catholics, born from the experience of charismatic renewal. It has 11,500 members in 67 countries, half of them in France, and brings together members from different states of life, lay people (married, celibate, consecrated) and priests.

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► Did the retreat take place legally?

At first, several media affirmed that the retreat of the Emmanuel community was of a “Clandestine”, claiming that it would have taken place without authorization from the Orne prefecture. Information denied by the Norman prefecture to The cross. “The prefectural services were not brought to render a decision to authorize or register a declaration in this file, because the reception of the public in establishments receiving the public was authorized on condition of ensuring strict compliance barrier gestures (wearing a mask, hand hygiene, social distancing of one meter between people). At the time of this retreat, only gatherings of more than 1,500 people had to be the subject of a prior declaration to the prefecture ”, specifies the prefectural services of Orne.

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► What was the health situation at the time of retirement?

At the time of retirement, from October 22 to 25, the Covid-19 epidemic in France was engaged in an exponential dynamic: just over 42,000 cases were detected throughout the country on the first day of retirement. Four days after the end of the spiritual stay, on October 29, a new confinement was put in place throughout the national territory. On October 22, the department of Orne was classified as “Active traffic zone” virus. “We discussed within the community the advisability of maintaining this meeting, and it was finally decided that it would take place with very strict barrier measures and by asking the fragile people to cancel their coming. The legal framework allowed it to be held ”, explains Louis-Etienne de Labarthe, director of communication for the Emmanuel Community, who invites you to put the event in context. ” We forget the context of three weeks ago, but at the time, almost everything was still open, everything changed very quickly ”.

► Was there an epidemic focus within the Montligeon retreat?

Two days after the retreat, several participants, ten or more according to several media (the Emmanuel Community which first mentioned this estimate did not wish to reconfirm it to The cross) were detected positive for Covid-19. During the retreat, a “contact case” person reported to the group after receiving a notification from the Regional Health Agency and had to leave the sanctuary to self-isolate. Should the spiritual stay have ended after the reporting of this contact case within the group of retreatants? “ When there is a contact case in a company, the whole company does not stop ”, pleads the director of communication of the Emmanuel Community, who insists: “At that time, all celebrations and retreats were authorized, we must judge by the yardstick of the then context”.

West France reports the situation of a couple of Nantes in their fifties contaminated during retirement who visited relatives on their return from the gathering, infecting other people, one of whom died of the coronavirus. It was the relatives of this deceased person who would have alerted the administrative authorities of Orne and the information was finally revealed by West France Tuesday 17th November.

► Did the Emmanuel community warn the health authorities after learning of cases within the pension?

No, the Emmanuel community has not notified the health authorities. “ We are not a tracing organization, we do not have to replace the work of regional health agencies or Health Insurance, especially as there was a potential issue around medical confidentiality », Explains the communication director of the community. “I do not understand why the organizers have not come forward to us. Tracing depends on what people want to tell us ”, lamented to West France Mathieu Frécaut, director of the Primary Health Insurance Fund of Orne. On the other hand, the community ensures that it warned all the participants of the retreat that people positive for Covid-19 had attended the retreat.


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