Geneva Cathedral – first Catholic Mass in 500 years

A cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, has celebrated its first Catholic Mass in nearly 500 years.

The vigil of the First Sunday of Lent was the day chosen to celebrate the historic Mass.

The last Mass celebrated at St Pierre Cathedral took place in 1535.

After the Reformation, the building was taken over by John Calvin’s Reformed Protestant Church.

All the cathedral’s statues, paintings and stained-glass windows were destroyed and Catholic worship was banned.

Around 1,500 people attended the Mass, led by the episcopal vicar of Geneva Father Pascal Desthieux.

Among those present was a representative of the Protestant community, who faced the congregation and formally asked pardon for historic actions against Christian unity.

Desthieux said Geneva’s Catholics were touched by the Protestant community’s invitation to celebrate Mass at St Pierre Cathedral.

He also asked for forgiveness for “faults against unity”: acts of mockery, caricature, or challenge to the Reformed community.

He underlined the desire to “enrich each other with our differences.”

Couples from religiously mixed marriages “live ecumenism in the most intimate way,” he said.

He urged everyone to “resist the forces of division in our lives between us and among us Christians.”

Once a stained-glass window, it was replaced after the Reformation.


The Mass has been planned for two years but delayed because of COVID quarantine restrictions.

In a letter published on the vicariate’s website in 2020, Desthieux described the cathedral as the “central and symbolic location of Geneva’s Christian history.”

It has its Catholic history and following the Reformation, it became a location “emblematic of the Calvinist reform,” he said.

While acknowledging that the return of the Catholic Mass to the cathedral was a cause for rejoicing, Desthieux cautioned against “triumphalism,” as well as any language suggesting that Catholics were 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, adding that the Mass was a “gesture of hospitality” within the city’s Christian community.


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