Church-State Meetings to Continue Under New French Prime Minister

PARIS, JULY 11, 2002 ( The president of the French bishops’ conference says that Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin wishes to continue the regular meetings with the Church, begun by his predecessor Lionel Jospin.

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«The Prime Minister hopes that this work, these meetings and this endeavor for agreement will continue,» Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard said after his meeting with Raffarin this week.

Meetings for cooperation between the government and bishops are something of a novelty in French Republican history, with its strict separation of church and state.

«In the month of September we will begin work in this direction,» the archbishop of Bordeaux said. «The objective of the meeting … will be to define the important topics on which we would like to work harmoniously.»

Archbishop Ricard, accompanied by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris, and by Father Stanislas Lalanne, the episcopate’s secretary-general, was received for one hour Monday by the Prime Minister, who is close to French President Jacques Chirac.

The meeting served to «touch base with the new French government after the elections,» Archbishop Ricard said.

Former Prime Minister Jospin, a Socialist, and representatives of the Catholic Church agreed last February to formalize existing relations between the Church and state through regular meetings.

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