Laicism and Cloning Are French Primate's Key Concerns

Cardinal Barbarin Says Bill on Religious Symbols Won’t Be a Cure-all

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2004 ( The uproar over French legislation to ban religious signs in public schools and the relative silence regarding a “therapeutic cloning” measure are key concerns of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.

The 53-year-old French primate expressed these concerns to John Paul II on Saturday at the close of the five-yearly visit to Rome by the bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Lyon and Clermont.

“For some months, French society has been very agitated about the issues that affect laicism, in particular, external signs of religious membership,” Cardinal Barbarin said.

“The bishops of France have expressed their opinion, which is not in favor of the establishment of a law that prohibits ostensible religious signs in public schools and hospitals,” he observed.

Although the Christian community “manifests different opinions on this topic,” it is clear that “a law will never be the miraculous answer to all the difficulties,” the cardinal said.

“In a debate lacking in serenity, it is important to perceive to what point Christians are committed in this field and wish to live with good understanding and in peace with believers of other religions, who are numerous in our country,” he said.

“At stake is the integration of all the social components within the nation,” said the Morocco-born cardinal.

“On the contrary, I am dismayed by the silence that surrounds the vote on the new law on bioethics,” he continued. “Is it a sign of indifference?”

“How is it possible that Catholic deputies can vote for a law that is lacking in clarity in the rejection of cloning and that implies that the human embryo is no more than laboratory material, by authorizing its use for therapeutic ends?” he asked.

“We have sufficient appreciation and confidence in medical research so as to think that it will be able to find the means to respond to the hope of the sick and their families,” the French primate added.

“The human embryo is not a thing,” he said. “The situation is even more scandalous because of the fact that the French law states that it ‘guarantees respect for every human being, from the beginning of life.’ What do these words mean?”

The cardinal also expressed his two great “sorrows” during his meeting with the Holy Father: the abandonment of the exercise of the ministry by some young priests in France, and cases of abuse of minors attributed to priests, “thank God, not very numerous.”

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