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French bishops' leader says election shows 'increasing rupture'

Archbishop Moulins-Beaufort warns of increasing social divisions after the stabbing of a Catholic priest and nun
French bishops' leader says election shows 'increasing rupture'

French far-right party Rassemblement National's presidential candidate Marine Le Pen arrives at its headquarters in Paris on April 25 after the second round of the presidential election. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 26, 2022 05:45 AM GMT
Updated: April 26, 2022 05:52 AM GMT

The head of the French bishops' conference welcomed the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron but also warned of growing social divisions after the vote was marred by the stabbing of a Catholic priest and nun.

Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims said the election revealed "an increasing rupture ... which is geographical but also separates those above from those below. This is worrying for our country's future."

He gave his reaction in an April 25 French-language interview with Vatican News following Macron's April 24 victory over far-right challenger Marine Le Pen.

He said most French voters had been unwilling to "embark on the adventure" likely to be signified by Le Pen's election.

However, he added that the result, amid rising poverty and exclusion, also highlighted limits to the "development model" followed by France since World War II.

"We see this in terms of the distribution of wealth and the ecological and social crisis — yet while we touch the limits of one system, we also struggle to imagine another," Archbishop Moulins-Beaufort said.

"Our role is to defend the deep meaning of conception and human life lived to the end in trust and surrender, where we all help each other. This is where there is certainly room for improvement"

"What is now clearly needed is a collective project that can truly bring people together by transcending social classes, religious affiliations and other divisions. But this is proving difficult, and it's where politics finds itself today."

Macron won a second five-year term with 58.5 percent of votes against Le Pen's 41.5 percent in the April 24 presidential runoff. He became the first French head of state to be re-elected in two decades.

At a late-night Paris rally, he promised supporters he would find answers to the "anger and disagreement" that had driven citizens to back the far right.

The election ballot was marred by a knife attack on a Catholic priest and elderly nun at Nice's Saint-Pierre-d'Arene church, shortly after the start of the 10am Mass.

Nice Diocese said the life of Father Krzysztof Rudzinski, a priest from Suchowola, Poland, who had ministered at the parish for 10 years, was not in danger, and it thanked security forces and officials for their "support and presence." A 72-year-old nun was injured when she attempted to stop the attack.

Meanwhile, the prefect of the southern Alpes-Maritimes region, Bernard Gonzalez, discounted a terrorist motive for the attack and said the assailant, a local man unknown to police, had spent time in a psychiatric hospital with bipolar disorder.

In his interview, Archbishop Moulins-Beaufort said the election result was a reminder that the European Union needed to "reinvent itself and prove convincing for citizens, especially those who feel, rightly or wrongly, excluded from the benefits of globalization."

He added that some key government policies, from legalized euthanasia to assisted reproduction, had reflected "a more or less conscious conspiracy with the market," which the Catholic Church would resist.

"In a hypertechnical world like ours, there's a great temptation to solve all the difficulties and trials of life by technical means," the bishop said. "Our role is to defend the deep meaning of conception and human life lived to the end in trust and surrender, where we all help each other. This is where there is certainly room for improvement."

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