Saturday, September 20, 2008
WAS THE PAPAL VISIT TO FRANCE A SUCCESS ?
Is the Catholic Church a beleaguered underdog, fighting for a voice in secular Europe, or a still-mighty power, wielding its influence on European law through friendly center-right governments?
Pope Benedict XVI offered communion at a special Mass in Lourdes, the pilgrimage site in France, during a recent visit.
That question, which has been building momentum throughout Pope Benedict XVI’s three-year-old papacy, came mightily to the fore in his recent trip to France.
Yet even as the pope calls for more animated discussion of church and state and more interreligious dialogue, no one, probably not even at the Vatican, expects Europe to become newly devout any time soon. Mass attendance is at record lows, as is the number of priests.
Nor does anyone expect France to overturn its dearly held tenet of “laïcité,” a strict separation of church and state, in spite of the pope’s admonition that secularism leads to nihilism and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s calls for a more “positive laïcité.”
But Benedict’s insistence that religion and politics be “open” to each other — coupled with his strong renewal while in Lourdes of the church’s opposition to same-sex couples, communion for the divorced and euthanasia — sends a direct message: the church doesn’t want European law to be at odds with church teaching, and he wants Catholics to make some noise about it.
Read it here.