Today’s audience with the Pope Emmanuel Macron had to practically beg: the entire force of French diplomacy during the recent Rome meeting of the G20 heads of state and government was mobilized to achieve a meeting with Pope Francis.
Macron is not accepted as the head of state, but as a parishioner of the Catholic Church, firstly, and as the future interim chairman of the European community, and secondly. Therefore, the meeting is unlikely to follow the scenario that was prepared at the Elysee Palace. And the questions will be asked by Pope Francis, and Macron will have to answer them.
It is obvious that the leader of a country in which the number of parishioners is decreasing, parishes live in poverty, and cathedrals sometimes do not even have fire alarms and insurance in case of a disaster, it will be very difficult.
The second factor, which, even if not formulated, will still be present during the audience, is the freedom to blaspheme. Inappropriate behavior in the church, such as dancing, is not considered a punishable act, and caricatures and ridicule of faith, religion and parishioners are (according to French law) a manifestation of free speech.
The entire history of the Fifth Republic in the part that relates to Catholicism is associated with a constant, but gradual decrease in the influence of the church and church hierarchs on public life.
Although – and this should definitely be emphasized – all the presidents of the country, starting with Charles de Gaulle, received not only a Catholic school education, they were practicing believers. Let sometimes only in his youth (Macron made a pilgrimage to Lourdes as a child, his grandmother took him there almost every year).
But the only one who was not ashamed of his faith in adulthood was de Gaulle. In 1941, in exile in London, he uttered a phrase that became his political credo: “I am fighting for God and my homeland.” Having become president in a difficult period for the country, when it got bogged down in the colonial war in Algeria, the general asked to create a small chapel in the Elysee Palace, in which he prayed, and Sunday Mass was served there for him and his wife.
Georges Pompidou, who replaced de Gaulle as the country’s leader, treated the clergy with respect, seeing in religion and faith the spiritual support for the nation. The situation changed with the coming to power of Valerie Giscard d’Est-aing, who was brought up in the strictest observance of religious rites, but decided that Catholicism of fellow citizens could be a brake on social progress.
Under d’Estaing in 1974, France abolished criminal liability for abortion (both the woman and the doctor who performed the procedure were in prison for termination of pregnancy), the church was consulted, having achieved, if not consent, but non-interference in the passage of the bill.
If the need to decriminalize abortion was not questioned, then the gradual departure of the church from nurturing the nation even then raised questions, and not only among those who regularly attended Mass. Throughout the history of France as a nation and as a state, the Catholic Church played the role of one of the load-bearing structures, and by “squeezing” both priests and believers to the sidelines of public discussion, painting them in the press as reactionaries, those who formed meanings rendered the nation a bearish service – most likely deliberately.
Lacking support in the faith that lay at the heart of French culture, whether someone liked it or not, society began to give up position after position. And the retreat and disregard for values ultimately led to a vacuum.
This emptiness was immediately stuffed with a variety of rapidly changing ideas. Confused citizens did not understand what was good and what was bad, what criteria to rely on, what goals in life to set.
The end of the 80s somehow still managed to survi-ve, the real crisis began a li-ttle later, and from that mo-ment everyone who occupied the presidency tried to formulate a national idea, and create a national doctrine: this wasted energy and money, but all in vain. The most striking illustration of the futility of efforts is the fire of Notre Dame Cathedral.
In addition to the loss of priceless treasures and the oak formwork of the famous roof, in addition to the horror of the loss of one of the main symbols of both faith, nation and country, the French found that this cathedral and other masterpieces of the Gothic were not insured.
Since these monuments are included in the register of national monuments, and insurance payments for clergy and parishioners in this regard become astronomical, the state has promised to cover the costs of possible repairs and restoration in case of accidents and accidents.
But when the approximate estimate was about a billion euros, this amount was not in the treasury, so it was necessary to put a hat in a circle to restore the main symbol of France. What can compare with such humiliation of both the nation and the country, and, of course, the entire Catholic French Church?
But the misfortunes and trials did not end there either: the arson of the cathedral in Nantes became the revenge of an illegal for the fact that he was not granted refugee status, and the terrible murder of a priest in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, committed several years earlier, was a terrorist act intimidation. And then the parishion-ers and the gatekeeper were stabbed to death in Nice. The terrorist is also illegal. And he also chose the Cath-olic Church as his goal.
In what has happened, only the very naive do not want to see the flames of a religious war. Parishioners and priests, who, after such dramas, are asked by the ubiquitous press what can be done, speak with the humility characteristic of believers, about the need for at least minimal protection from the state.
However, realizing that it is useless to hope for this, they come to churches, wh-ere they pray for the salvation of the country left by politicians (not only by the current president, of cours-e) to fend for themselves.
It is difficult to predict what questions the pontiff Macron will ask, but if the French leader went to the Vatican five months before the elections, it means that even he realizes that without faith and without the support of the church, he (and his alleged rivals) will not be able to save the country.
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