File photo of Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the CEF File photo of Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the CEF 

French Bishops urge discernment ahead of presidential elections

The Catholic Bishops of France are calling on French citizens to vote in presidential elections set for April, while warning against the exploitation of Christianity in politics.

By Devin Watkins

France’s presidential elections are around the corner with the first round to be held on 10 April, and a second round on 24 April if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. Parliamentary elections will be held later on 12-19 June.

As campaigning heats up, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) has released a lengthy document entitled “Hope does not disappoint”.

The 60-page text draws on previous statements released ahead of elections in 2006, 2011, and 2016, and seeks to encourage people to exercise both their consciences and their right to vote.

Humility and boldness

The Bishops divide their considerations into 7 themes, which range from living together in peace to respect for all human life, and from religion as a search for meaning to integral ecology.

Each chapter closes by offering several questions to help guide community discussion.

At the same time, French Bishops ease into the political debate, expressing their desire to bear witness to Christ in every aspect of life while admitting the sins of some Church representatives.

“It is with humility that the Catholic Church intervenes in the debate that is beginning… Nevertheless, the Permanent Council of the CEF dares to share this reflection because the One in whom we believe invites us to bear witness to Him, even beyond the faults and sins we recognize.”

Societal splits

France’s Bishops go on to note that French society faces many challenges, including increasing fragmentation aggravated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“The risk of fracturing our national community as well as the resurgence of international tensions are real,” admit the Bishops, dedicating a long paragraph to an uptick in violence in the EU nation.

They thus urge all people to take up their civic responsibilities.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be locked into bitterness or discouragement,” say the Bishops, while inviting Christians to exercise “ethical and social vigilance” and “hope”.

“We are experiencing tough and perilous times. The approaching deadlines will be crucial. But fear is always a bad counselor. It is hope that opens the way to courageous and healthy choices.”

Respect for life and ecology

The Bishops of France also warn against the temptation toward nationalism, while cautioning politicians against using religion as an identity platform.

“The fundamental movement of religion cannot be reduced to a quest for a particular identity,” they say. “Rather, it must be initiated by the search for God, and for the good, the true, and the beautiful.”

Another issue taken up is the question of respect for life. The French Bishops say a bill aiming to extend the abortion limit from 12 to 14 weeks constitutes “an additional violence against society as a whole”.

They also advocate for the full inclusion of people with disabilities and migrants, while urging all French citizens to set out on a path of ecological conversion.

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20 January 2022, 11:16