France to Repeal Secularism?

Pope Benedict XVI Sitting & Wearing White

Pope Benedictus XVI


The following news item was of interest:

Sarkozy, Pope aim to ease France’s secularism

Canwest News Service, Canada – Sep 5, 2008

PARIS – Pope Benedict’s first official visit to France will unite two men who share few similarities beyond their mutual interest in relaxing this country’s profoundly strict tradition of separating church and state…

The 81-year-old German Pope will deliver 11 speeches over four days to an estimated half a million people in Paris and Lourdes. He will begin by discussing “the place of religion in France” with Sarkozy, 53, the hyperactive, Ray-Ban-wearing, celebrity-enamoured head of one of the world’s most secular countries…

Sarkozy has been outspoken in trying to ease the strict 1905 secularism law in France, a country known historically as the church’s “oldest daughter” because of its deep Christian roots.

That has created an opening for Benedict, a respected intellectual who speaks fluent French, to gently urge greater public involvement among the country’s practising Catholics.

“Certainly Sarkozy’s private life isn’t what the Pope would like to see, but he has shown himself to be much more open to public expressions of faith and especially Christian faith,” said David Gibson, a former Vatican correspondent and author of The Coming Catholic Church and The Rule of Benedict.

Some say many French citizens, feeling threatened by the five million-strong Muslim community as well as the growth in the Pentecostal movement, might see some comfort in a higher profile for the Catholic Church.

“The French feel their identity slipping away from them,” said John Allen, National Catholic Reporter columnist and Vatican correspondent for CNN.

“I think Benedict sees a moment of opportunity – that people will see the church as a guarantor of French identity rather than as a threat to that identity.”

Sarkozy rocked France’s political establishment, which recoils at any public discussion of religion, while still a cabinet minister under Jacques Chirac’s presidency in 2004.

In his book The Republic, Religions and Hope, Sarkozy described himself at the time as a man of the Catholic faith, culture and tradition, though he wrote that his religious practice was “episodic.”

He argued that “spiritual need and hope are not satisfied” by the French Republican ideal that keeps religion far from the public square.

He argued that France should consider amendments to the 1905 law that established secularism and banned state-sanctioned or state-funded religion…

The Pope’s centrepiece Paris event will be an outdoor mass next Saturday that is expected to draw more than 200,000.

As we in the Living Church of God have long taught, Europe will embrace some form of Catholicism before the end.

It appears that both the pope and the French president are trying to set the stage for that now (though it may take some time for it to come to pass).

Currently the French president is also the “president of the North” in the Union for the Mediterranean (please see Deal Leading to Psalm 83?).

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