VATICAN CITY — As France’s Socialist government pushes to legalize “gay marriage,” Catholics must continue to strongly and consistently bear witness to the teachings of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“In society's key debates, the voice of the Church must make itself heard ceaselessly and with determination,” he said, praising the “rich Christian history” of France, which “cannot be ignored or diminished.”
Pope Benedict made his remarks in a Nov. 17 address to a group of French bishops on their ad limina visit to Rome.
His address came as French President Francois Hollande’s cabinet continues to push ahead with legislation that would legalize same-sex “marriage” and allow same-sex couples to adopt in early 2013.
On Nov. 18, the day after the Pope addressed the bishops, around 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Paris to show their support for traditional marriage.
In his remarks to the French bishops, Pope Benedict said that Catholics must adhere to the faith and maintain “full respect for the French tradition regarding the distinction between the respective spheres of competence of church and state.”
Such a balance gives “special reassurance” that the Church is “not merely a religious identity that demands to be respected,” but an entity that “carries the wisdom that permits us to provide concrete answers to the pressing and sometimes troubling questions of our times.”
Those in public service, the Pope said, “bear special responsibility” to uphold their faith in a way that is “devoid of arrogance” and carried out “with respect.”
He also urged politicians and the French bishops to be wary of any legislation that “threatens marriage between a man and a woman, the protection of life from conception to death and the correct guidance of bioethics in harmony with magisterial documents.”
The Pope praised Catholic and non-Catholic intellectuals of France who “are aware of the enormous challenges of our age, where the Christian message is an irreplaceable point of reference.”
The debates that are taking place in French society, the Holy Father said, require “the indispensable word of truth” that ultimately “frees our hearts and opens them to hope.”