Catholics Should Have Freedom to Express Faith

French Bishop Discusses Secularization of Society

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LOURDES, France, NOV. 7, 2004 ( The president of the French episcopal conference asserted that all Catholics, especially the clergy, should have the right to freely express their faith.

«There can be no religious freedom if there is no freedom of expression and the possibility to communicate one’s thought, not only in personal relations but also in the social realm,» said Archbishop Jean Pierre Ricard at the opening of the plenary assembly of French bishops being held in Lourdes until Nov. 9.

The statements followed in the wake of the introduction of a law which forbids religious symbols in schools, which has already prevented some priests from entering schools wearing their soutanes.

Archbishop Ricard, who is also archbishop of Bordeaux, said that in France there is «a complete secularization of society,» and lamented that for some people «there is no legitimacy or place for a manifestation of religion in the public realm.»

The archbishop urged the bishops in particular to be aware of the expression «public school, shrine of the republic,» as it implies that «religions remain at the door.»

Commenting on the draft law on homophobia, with which the present government intends to impose severe penalties on those who discriminate or commit crimes against homosexuals, Archbishop Ricard said that «the law does not specify what homophobia is.»

At the same time, the archbishop questioned whether this law was necessary, as «the criminal code is enough to sanction offenses and crimes against homosexual people.»

In this connection, he recalled that «the Church has always upheld respect for the dignity of the human person, regardless of the situation in which he/she is.»

On this topic as on others, the archbishop added, «we defend the possibility of the Catholic Church expressing herself, but not only for her, but for all in a truly democratic society.»

Archbishop Ricard added that he hoped «that the Lord will make us fully free bishops for the service of God and men.»

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