French bishops' spokesman urged politicians to "listen to the streets" after hundreds of thousands of people rallied against same-sex marriage.
"We're facing questions about society -- what the family is, what
marriage is, and whether there's a difference between men and women,"
Msgr. Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops' conference, told
France's Metro daily.
"I'm not one who says the street must decide, because this is always
dangerous, and political responsibility rests with those elected. But
the street is expressing a great frustration today -- those holding
political responsibility can't expect to govern without listening to
what it's saying," he said.
The Jan. 13 demonstration was organized by a coalition of 30 family
groups. Organizers said 800,000 people participated, although French
police put the number at 340,000.
Msgr. Podvin said the Catholic Church believed homosexuals "must be
respected," but was against the same-sex bill, which was introduced in
November by the government of President Francois Hollande under the
slogan, "Marriage for All." In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage,
it would allow adoption by same-sex couples.
"In our eyes, there's nothing contradictory between fighting firmly
against homophobia and saying no to a radical transformation of the
family model," Msgr. Podvin said.
At the conclusion of the demonstration, protesters in Paris' Champ de
Mars called on Hollande to "hear and understand the people of France,"
adding that the bill had "deeply divided" the population and provoked
opposition "from right and left and the unaffiliated."
They said the legislation "means inscribing in our law a fundamental
discrimination: between those who will be born from a father and mother,
and those who will be legally 'born' from two fathers or two mothers."
France's Le Figaro daily said several Catholic bishops -- including
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon -- joined the rally privately with
In a brief address to protesters in Place Denfert-Rochereau, the
bishops' conference president, Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, said he
had not participated because his "mode of communication" with the
government was "not the demonstration, but direct dialogue."
However, he praised protesters for the "quality of their message" and
for taking part "peacefully, without aggression, distrust or personal
"It must be understood that the defense of parentage, paternity and
maternity over children isn't an act of aggression against homosexuals,
but a recognition that a child born from a man and woman has a right to
be raised by a man and woman," he said.
Supporters of the proposed legislation plan a rally in Paris Jan. 27,
two days before debate is scheduled to begin in France's National
About 500 people, mostly French citizens, also gathered in front of the
French Embassy in Rome Jan. 13 as a show of support for the Paris
Along with pink, baby blue and white balloons, they also held signs,
some of which said "Father + Mother = nothing better for a child."
Organizers said they gave the embassy a letter addressed to the French
president asking him to not promote the proposed laws. Similar protests
were held by French citizens in London, Brussels, Madrid, Washington,
D.C., Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo, organizers said.
Pope Benedict XVI did not mention the pro-family protests in his Angelus
address Jan. 13. However, he did call for greater care and concern for
immigrants and their families.
Noting the church's celebration of World Day of Migrants and Refugees,
the pope asked, in French, that newcomers be "accommodated and
supported" in such a way they and their families may be assured a
A small demonstration by four women broke out in St. Peter's Square just
as the pope began his weekly address. Four young women removed their
shirts to reveal slogans painted on their naked backs and chests, such
as "In Gay We Trust," and "Shut Up."
The pope did not appear to notice the protesters, and they were quickly taken away by Italian police.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the
Family, told Vatican Radio the church supports cultural and social
progress, but not "at the expense of nature."
He said he wondered why so many people were so committed to protecting
the environment from manipulation, but "not very concerned about
manipulation against the inner workings of anthropology."
Allowing same-sex couples to adopt "leads to the child becoming a kind
of merchandise," he said, adding that a child must be born and raised
"the ordinary way, that is with a father and a mother."
In England and Wales, more than a thousand Catholic priests signed an
open letter warning British politicians that a bill to redefine marriage
to include same-sex couples would erode religious liberty.
The letter, published Jan. 12 in the London-based Daily Telegraph
newspaper, urged lawmakers "not to be afraid to reject this legislation"
when it arrives in the House of Commons later in the month.
The signatories, who also include eight bishops, suggest that the Equal
Marriage Bill represents the gravest threat to the Catholic Church in
England and Wales since the Reformation. They said it could restrict the
ability of the church to function effectively and force Catholics from a
range of professions.
"Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many
legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to
teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions
or places of worship," said the letter, signed by about a fifth of the
priests of England and Wales.
"It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach
their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are
also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time," it said.
"Marriage, and the home, children and family life it generates, is the
foundation and basic building block of our society," the letter said.