French Riots Require a Positive Reply, Says Benedict XVI

In Order to Guard Ideals of Equality and Fraternity

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2005 ( Benedict XVI says the challenge France is facing vis-à-vis its large immigrant sector consists in achieving a harmonious way of living the ideals of equality and fraternity.

The Pope made that point today in the wake of the riots that broke out in late October in various French cities, for the most part in neighborhoods inhabited by immigrants and youths.

The violence, mostly by youths, lasted 22 days and spread to more than 100 locales — the worst violence in France since May 1968.

As he received the credentials of the new French ambassador to the Holy See, Bernard Kessedjian, the Pontiff noted: «Your country has gone through a difficult period, which has made manifest the profound dissatisfaction among certain groups of young people.»

«The domestic violence that marks societies, and that is to be absolutely condemned, nonetheless expresses a message, especially in the case of young people, and invites us to bear their needs in mind and to provide — as Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux and president of the French episcopal conference has said — ‘a response equal to these dramatic tensions in our society,'» the Holy Father said.

Immigrants’ input

The Pope then went on the mention the contribution to French development made by the numerous foreign workers who emigrated to the country, especially since World War II.

«It is important,» he said, «to thank them and their descendents for this economic, cultural and social wealth of which they are an integral part. The vast majority of them have become French in every sense of the word.

«The challenge today is to uphold the values of equality and fraternity, which are a constituent part of French identity, so that all the country’s citizens, while respecting legitimate differences, may form part of an authentic shared culture, one that carries fundamental moral and spiritual values.»

The Holy Father also called for special attention to be given to «the institution of marriage and the family, with which no other form of relationship can be compared.»

«I also wish to call the attention of all men and women of good will,» the Pope continued, «to the decisions and actions to be taken in the field of bioethics, which is showing an ever greater tendency to consider the human being, especially in the first moments of life, as a mere object of research.»

«It is important,» he said, «to consider ethical questions not only from the point of view of science, but also from the perspective of human beings, a perspective which has to be respected. If this fundamental moral criterion is not accepted, it will be difficult to create a society that respects all its members without distinction.»

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