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Church's 'Prayer for France' angers gay rights groups

A centuries-old tradition was revived on August 15th when a “Prayer for France” was read out at Catholic churches across the country. The text, which attacks government plans to legalise same-sex marriage, has angered French gay rights groups.


Gay rights groups in France have reacted angrily to the Catholic Church after it issued a call to prayer to protect the sacriment of marriage from same-sex couples.

The controversial “Prayer for France” has been sent out to churches across the country to be read out on August 15 to mark the feast of the Assumption.

The prayer’s subject matter is designed to mobilise Catholics against François Hollande’s Socialist Party government, which recently affirmed plans to open up marriage and adoption to gay couples.

In a thinly veiled reference to the proposed gay marriage bill, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois asked churchgoers to pray for “newly elected officials” to put their “sense of common good over the pressure to meet special demands”.

These words have angered gay rights groups across France, who have slammed the church for "homophobia" and for interfering in poltics.

“François Hollande is committed to these reforms and they have been reaffirmed by his government,” Nicolas Gougain of the Inter LGBT activist group told FRANCE 24.

“We can count on getting a majority in parliament and no prayer will be able to block this necessary legisation. Religion has no place in politics,” he added.

'No prayer can stop legislation'

The annual “Prayer for France” was a centuries-old custom that died out after World War II. It was first uttered in the seventeenth century after King Louis XIII decreed all churches would pray on August 15 for the good of the country.

Church spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said its revival was timed to “raise the consciouness of public opinion about grave social choices”.

Minister for Families Dominique Bertinotti told French media this week that a bill legalising gay marriage will be voted on in parliament in early 2013.

As well as opposing gay marriage, the prayer also makes clear the Catholic Church’s resistance to gay adoption.

The cardinal invites congregations to pray that “children cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother”.

These words provoked the wrath of Inter LGBT.

“He is implying that it is dangerous for a child to be brought up by same-sex parents," Gougain said. "The text of the prayer is homophobic. The church’s definition of family is far from the reality of the diverse families we see today – same-sex, mixed or single parents."

“We are asking that all different types of families are recognised, in the interests of both child and parent.”

Love thy neighbour

The Prayer for France follows the hardline stance taken by the leader of the Catholic Chuch, Pope Benedict XVI, who in January said gay marriage threatened “the future of humanity itself”.

Gay Christian groups have also reacted angrily to the Cardinal’s prayer.

“Most of our members are really upset by this terrible prayer, which reinforces the fears certain Catholics have towards homosexuals,” Elisabeth Saint-Guily of gay Christian group David and Jonathan told Europe1 radio.

“France’s bishops, and above them the Vatican, are using homophobic language. The Bible says, 'Love thy neighbour as yourself'. We would like the bishops to apply this maxim. They should love all their neighbours, including homosexuals,” she said.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon defended the church’s positon, saying marriage, defined at the start of the Bible, was created by God to join man and woman.

“Nobody should be surprised if we Catholics think that the first page of the Bible is right, even more so than a parliament,” he told Europe1.

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