In his speech, Macron praised the Church’s contribution to society, particularly its service to “the sick, the isolated, the decommissioned vulnerable, abandoned, disabled, prisoners, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.”
The French president also remarked on Catholic leaders’ coherence in seeing the human dimension of both bioethical and migrant issues.
“You consider that our duty is to protect life, especially when this life is defenseless. Between the life of the unborn child, that of being on the threshold of death, or that of the refugee who has lost everything, you see this common trait of deprivation, nakedness and absolute vulnerability,” said Macron.
“I believe in a political commitment that serves the dignity of man,” he said.
“The link between Church and State has deteriorated, and that it is important for us and for me to repair it,” he told French Catholic leadership.
Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops conference, offered remarks to President Macron in a separate speech. He highlighted euthanasia in his comments, quoting a long passage from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:
“A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question … Faced with these dramatic questions, reason and faith can come to each other's assistance. Only together will they save man. Entranced by an exclusive reliance on technology, reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence.”
The archbishop questioned the president, “Can one describe as ‘care’ the act of giving death?” and emphasized that “society must offer opportunities for life, friendship, tenderness, compassion, solidarity.”
Only time will tell the effects of Macron’s speech, Father Koczera told CNA.
“The relationship between the Catholic Church and the French state is a very complex one,” he explained.
“Though many French Catholics have welcomed the President’s words, it remains to be seen what practical effect the speech will have. Particularly since last year’s presidential election, when many politically-engaged Catholics supported the unsuccessful campaign of François Fillon, the role of Catholics in public debates has seemed uncertain,” Koczera explained.
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“On a practical level, it also makes a difference that a majority of French citizens are still baptized Catholics – even though the number who practice their faith is much smaller, the Church still plays a role in what some call the roman national, the historical narrative that provides a cohesive sense of national identity.”
Emmanuel Macron, a baptized Catholic, was elected president of France in May 2017. Upon his election, Pope Francis sent Macron a telegram urging him to strengthen France’s Christian roots and “respect for life.” Macron is the youngest president to ever be elected in France.