News Story

Elder Sinjoux and Other Faith Representatives Meet with French Polynesian Government Leaders

Finding ways to allow for religious worship, where possible, within context of pandemic health and safety regulations

Faced with the recent worsening of the COVID-19 situation, the French Polynesian government once again consulted with seven religious denominations at a meeting organized by Édouard Fritch, President of French Polynesia and Dominique Sorain, High Commissioner of France.

Church leader, Elder Benjamin T. Sinjoux, represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the meeting to discuss the acceleration of the epidemic, to specify new gathering restrictions, and to come up with a strategy to face the "epidemic peak.”


 Indeed, the alarming figures underline the gravity of the COVID-19 health crisis:

• 6,431 positive cases since July 15

• 4,090 released from their 7-day isolation period

• 2,315 active cases: more than 400 new cases in 72 hours

• 86 hospitalizations in progress

• 19 patients in intensive care

• 26 deaths from COVID-19 in since September 10

Before this meeting with the government, Elder Sinjoux had invited the stake presidents (leaders of groups of congregations) to a consultation via ZOOM. He exhorted the leaders to follow the recommendations of the Church’s First Presidency, because, “the work must move forward despite the pandemic,” while exercising great caution.

During the meeting, High Commissioner Dominique Sorain, reiterated his confidence in the leaders of religious denominations and thanked them for their caring involvement in the management of the pandemic.

Recognizing the essential place of religion in the life of Polynesians, he stressed that worship services may continue by limiting the number of people to 50% of the building's capacity. On the other hand, he invited them to not have meals and gatherings after spiritual meetings, especially for weddings and baptisms, and to suspend choirs. For funerals, the attendance must be limited to ten people in person.

In addition, he called for showing good citizenship and respect for life by asking members to let others know if they are COVID-19 positive and to isolate themselves to avoid the spread of the virus. Individual discipline is essential for containing the pandemic.

During the discussions, representatives from each of the churches presented the measures put into action in their congregations. The representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church expressed his deep concern: “To close churches, even partially, is spiritual death for members. For Polynesians, spirituality is vital."

Elder Sinjoux explained further: “For our Church, luckily we have more than 50% of our families who bless the Sacrament at home on their own. Because of this, our buildings are only 50% full as requested by the authorities of the country and the State."

“For the families who cannot bless the Sacrament at home, we welcome them in our chapels in person in a specific setting, strictly respecting COVID-19 precautions."

At the conclusion of the meeting, Elder Sinjoux shared: “The country and the French State did not ask to close the churches. Religious denominations are not subject to the rule of closing buildings that are open to the public.

"The authorities have instead called for more vigilance, more civility and respect for others by strictly enforcing the wearing of masks, washing hands, physical distancing and the disinfection of buildings after each use.

"This is consistent with the guidance from our First Presidency who have encouraged us to resume meetings and activities when possible and in accordance with the regulations of local and national government.”

This cooperation between the French Polynesian government and religious denominations has been an asset in managing this lethal pandemic.

David A. Bednar, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, expressed at the recent G20 Inter-Religious Forum, “Seeking greater cooperation and better compromise between the country's leaders and religious leaders is the way to go…to win allies in a common fight not only against health risks, but also against other serious risks.

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