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Some See a Renaissance With New President Sarkozy
BY JOANNA BOGLEREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
PARIS — The general reaction of
Catholics in France to the election of a new president seems to be one of quiet
Nicolas Sarkozy was elected with a
clear majority over his socialist opponent Segolene Royal. In pre-election
interviews and broadcasts, he had voiced support for families, opposition to
euthanasia and a general sense of respect for France’s Christian traditions.
“We feel we’ve avoided the worst
option. The new president is surrounded by a number of people who have moral
convictions. We feel we probably won’t go further in the direction of negating
all family values” said Armand de Malherbe, a prominent Catholic and a former
regional elected official.
France legalized abortion some years
ago and there has been pressure to legalize euthanasia and homosexual
Sarkozy is a baptized Catholic who
has described himself as a believer but an irregular churchgoer. He has spoken of
the importance he places in the Church as a foundation for general moral
“I am of Catholic culture, Catholic
tradition, Catholic faith,” he wrote in a book outlining his political and
ideological stance before the election. “Even if my religious practice is
episodic, I acknowledge myself as a member of the Catholic Church.”
Polls suggest that in the first
round of voting, large numbers of Catholics supported Philippe de Villiers, a
candidate with a strong pro-life and pro-family record in public life. But he
failed to gain enough votes to enter the second round, which left the field to
Sarkozy and Royal.
“Royal was committed to introducing
euthanasia and same-sex ‘marriage,’ including the right of same-sex couples to
artificial procreation” said Tugdual Derville, director of the Alliance pour le
Droit de la Vie (Alliance for the Right to Life) in Paris. “Sarkozy did not
support these things. We have real hope that we can work with some of the
people in the new government, especially on issues such as control of
One member of Sarkozy’s team is
Christine Boutane, a strong Catholic who has been close to the right-to-life
movement and is a consultor for the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome.
Sarkozy had focused on the theme of
unity, including the importance of closing the gap between rich and poor in
France, and of ensuring fair access to educational and other opportunities for
all. This was also a theme emphasized in statements by the French bishops’
conference, which also mentioned the question of immigration.
This is a major issue in France,
where massive immigration from Islamic countries has meant the presence in many
cities of large Islamic communities often not sharing language, culture or
social connections with their host country.
While the bishops’ statements
emphasized the social needs of immigrants and their rights and requirements for
their future lives in France, Sarkozy had spoken of the need to control future
numbers, and his speeches reflected concerns of many French people. But the
bishops noted that he emphasized respect for all religions, and for religious
values in general.
“Sarkozy personally identified
himself as a Catholic and made repeated references to this” said Ludovine de la
Rochere, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference. “But as a politician he
understood the importance of all religions in French political life whether
Christianity, Islam or Buddhism. This gave him a significant advantage.”
Royal, brought up in a traditional
Catholic family, has lived with a man for more than 20 years without marriage,
and they have four children. Sarkozy has been divorced and remarried.
Supporters of Sarkozy have been at
pains to emphasize that they were not opposed to the idea of electing a woman
as president of France.
“I actually thought it would be good
to have a woman leading France, good for the nation,” said one pro-life
Catholic. “But not this woman, not with the values and ideas she was
Joanna Bogle is based in London.