Sikhs Seek Pope's Help on Turban Ban
Debate on the bill in France's Lower House of Parliament began Feb. 3, with a vote scheduled for Feb. 10. Protests by religious-rights groups were planned for Feb. 7 and Feb. 14, according to Agence France-Presse, which noted that leftist members of Parliament have asked for the ban to be made even stricter.
Currently, it bans all Muslim head scarves, Sikh turbans, Jewish yarmulkes and “conspicuous” crosses. The leftist lawmakers said the bill should ban all “visible” crosses.
In 1905, the French Republic tore up its concordat with the Vatican, removing crucifixes from public schools and forcibly expelling every member of a religious order — regardless of age or infirmity — from the country.
The French government has said it is acting in the spirit of the 1905 legislation.
John Paul Praises Taiwan for Religious Freedom
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 30 — Meeting with Taiwan's new ambassador to the Holy See, Chou-seng Tou, Pope John Paul II praised the country for its commitment to religious liberty.
“The Republic of China has shown its respect for the various religious traditions found therein and recognizes the right of all to practice their religion,” the Pope said.
The Vatican is one of only 27 nations that maintain relations with Taiwan, which neighboring communist China sees as a renegade province and is eager to annex.
Mainland China broke relations with the Vatican shortly after its communist revolution, expelling all missionaries and closing most churches. The People's Republic continues to persecute the millions of Catholics who maintain their ties to Rome while supporting a “Patriotic Church” that rejects papal authority and takes its direction from the officially atheist government.
John Paul said all governments “must strive to give their citizens the necessary freedom to realize fully their true vocation.” He asserted that the progress of liberty “requires first and foremost the free exercise of religion in society.”
Pope Encourages Support for Bigger Families
“The cultural and social context very often does not favor the family and the mission of parents,” he said. “Furthermore, many married couples would like more children but are almost forced to renounce this due to economic difficulties. The help of public institutions, although significant, often turns out to be insufficient. One feels the need for a more organic politics in favor of the family.”
The Holy Father also urged believers not to despair in their battle against abortion. Christians, he said, must not “resign ourselves to attacks on human life, above all abortion.”
- February 15-21, 2004