Catholics Revive 'Prayer for France' Amid Push for Gay Marriage, Euthanasia
The French Catholic Church will revive a centuries-old custom next week with an updated national "prayer for France" opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage and other "grave social" reforms planned by the new government.
"Nobody should be surprised that we Catholics think the first page of the Bible is right, even more so than a parliament," said Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, referring to the union between Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eve in the Book of Genesis.
The Vatican and Catholic churches across the world have been speaking against the growing acceptance of homosexuality, which they say is an attack against marriage.
In response, the French Catholic Church will now hold the national prayer event to coincide with the day the Vatican claims Jesus' mother Mary was assumed bodily into heaven. The tradition was first started in 1638 by King Louis XIII who designated the date for such an event, although after World War II the French church stopped observing the prayer tradition.
The prayer, to be read in all Catholic churches on Aug. 15, echoes the defense of traditional marriage made by Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic leaders around the world as gay nuptials gain acceptance, especially in Europe and North America.
French President Francois Hollande has said that his country will start supporting same-sex marriage as early as next year, and Reuters reported that two-thirds of the French people approve of such plans.
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The Catholic Church strongly supports marriage only as the union between a man and a woman, however, and the Vatican has insisted that it will do all it can to preserve this definition across the world. The Roman Catholic Church teaches compassion for homosexuals, but calls for gays and lesbians to be celibate as same-sex behavior is considered a sin.
President Hollande, a socialist, has also expressed sympathy for euthanasia, and named a commission to review whether it needs to be legalized in the country.
Monsignor Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops, has said that the goal of the Aug. 15 prayer event is to "raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices."
Gay marriage is legal in several countries across Europe, and several others are having internal debates over whether it should be permitted – with Scotland set to become the first U.K. territory to allow such marriages.