Pope calls on France to respect Muslim women
PARISPope Francis has called on France to respect Muslims in being free to profess their faith – just like the Christians – adding that co-existence between the two faiths could still be possible.
“If a Muslim woman wishes to wear a veil, she must be able to do so. Similarly, if a Catholic wishes to wear a cross,” Francis told the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, according to The Guardian. “People must be free to profess their faith at the heart of their own culture not merely at its margins.”
When asked about the role religion ought to play in society and government, Francis strongly backed the separation of church and state, saying that states must be secular, although they also needed strong laws guaranteeing religious freedom and needed to ensure individuals, including government officials, had a right to conscientious objection.
He also expressed a “modest critique” of France, saying the country’s laws exaggerate “laïcité” – the separation of church and state.
“This arises from a way of considering religions as subcultures rather than as fully fledged cultures in their own right. I fear that this approach, which is understandable as part of the heritage of the Enlightenment, continues to exist. France needs to take a step forward on this issue in order to accept that openness to transcendence is a right for everyone,” Francis said.
He added that the co-existence between Christians and Muslims was “still possible,” pointing to his native Argentina, pre-war Central Africa, and Lebanon as models.
Francis also ruled out seeking the fast-track resignation of French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who has been accused of failing to inform the authorities about an alleged pedophile priest.
The pope said it would be “contradictory” and “imprudent” to seek Barbarin’s resignation at this stage.
“We will see after the end of [any] trial. But [to seek his resignation] now would be to imply guilt,” the pontiff said.
Francis said he believed Barbarin had “taken the necessary measures, he took things in hand. He is brave, creative, a missionary. We should now wait for the outcome of the civilian judicial procedure.”
Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, France’s second largest city, is facing a storm over his handling of allegations against Father Bernard Preynat, accused of sex attacks on four boy scouts between 1986 and 1991.