Three leaders of France's far-right Front National (FN) have used post-Christmas interviews on leading radio stations to criticise French bishops for urging Catholics to support refugees.
They argue that the
clergy should focus on filling up their churches rather than interfering
FN vice-president Louis Aliot said a “large majority of bishops” had
“spit in the face” of the party by “systematically denigrating the FN,
its leaders and its policies”.
Gilbert Collard, one of the Front’s two MPs in the National Assembly,
said the Church was “disconnected from reality — in the name of
welcoming others, they reject us”.
Party secretary general Nicolas Bay denied the interviews were a
“declaration of war” but said the Front “didn’t need to hear any lessons
from the clergy about migration”.
The three-pronged attack came as France gears up for presidential and
parliamentary elections in the spring with the race for head of state
shaping up between Front leader Marine Le Pen and conservative François
Fillon’s strong support among Catholics in his party’s primary has
highlighted tensions within the National Front between leaders such as
Le Pen and Aliot, who have little time for the Church, and others —
including Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen — who have been wooing
Pollsters have registered rising support among churchgoers for the FN
in recent years but an internal dispute over the Catholic vote could
harm its chances at the polls.
“I've never seen a large majority of Catholics voting for us … I've
seen a large majority of bishops spit in our face, one has to say, and
systemically denigrate the Front National, its leaders and its
policies,” Aliot said.
"Catholics should concern themselves with filling their churches —
which is not certain they can do, let me tell you— and should let the
political parties manage public affairs."
Collard said the Church was “represented today by political bishops, who are opponents of the faith”.
Bay said the FN would prefer to hear bishops “remind people of the
social doctrine of the Church, which is very far from the
ultra-liberalism we see today”.