Benedict XVI Notes Religion's Key Role in France

Says Bishops Should Have Place in Public Debate

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Religion, and particularly Catholicism, can have a positive role in French society, Benedict XVI affirmed to the nation’s new ambassador before the Holy See.

The Pope said this today when he received the new French envoy, Stanislas Lefebvre de Laboulaye. The Holy Father further affirmed that the “living” Catholic presence in France was notable during his trip there last September for the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions in Lourdes.

On that occasion, he said, the Catholics “gave testimony of the capacity of the faith to […] gather fraternally and joyfully great masses of men and women who are so different.”

“These moments have shown, if it were necessary, that the Catholic community is one of the living strengths of your country,” the Pontiff affirmed.

In this sense, he continued, the Church “has understood well and accepted with interest and satisfaction the proposal of your president that the contribution of great spiritual families constitutes for the nation a ‘great richness’ instead of a ‘craziness’ to allow to pass by.”

In particular, Benedict XVI noted the “great contribution” the Church can offer to the upcoming debates on bioethics, expected for next year.

“The pastors of the Church in France have worked a lot and are ready to offer their quality contribution to the public debate that is going to begin,” he said. “Powerful scientific advances should always be guided by the concern for serving the good and the inalienable dignity of man.”

Peace factors

The Pope also mentioned interreligious dialogue, noting the efforts the Church in France is making in this regard to “gather the conditions for a peaceful and permanent dialogue with all the religious communities and all the schools of thought.”

In addition to religions being a “factor of peace,” the Pope said they “recognize the transcendent value of every human being, instead of pitting mankind one against another, they favor the conversion of the heart that leads to a commitment against violence, terrorism and war, and the promotion of justice and peace.”

Regarding the actual relationship between French authorities and the Church, the Holy Father highlighted that “the desire of the Church is to give testimony of Christ, placing itself at the service of all men,” and he noted his satisfaction for a recent agreement that will recognize degrees from pontifical universities and Catholic institutions.

This agreement, he stated, “values the strong contribution, particularly in the field of education, of the Church, which shows a concern for the formation of youth so that they acquire adequate technical competence to exercise their capacities in the future, and receive as well a formation that makes them vigilant to face the ethical dimension with every responsibility.”

Finally, the Holy Father addressed the worldwide economic crisis, urging again that the most vulnerable of society are protected.

The current struggles, he said, “are a painful source of restlessness and suffering for many, but they are also an opportunity to heal financial mechanisms, to make the functioning of the economy progress toward a greater concern for man and to reduce old and new forms of poverty.”

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