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French Churches appeal for unity and calm after election deadlock

10 July 2024


A left-wing rally in the Place de la République celebrates victory in the parliamentary elections on Sunday night

A left-wing rally in the Place de la République celebrates victory in the parliamentary elections on Sunday night

CHURCH leaders in France have urged calm after the parliamentary election on Sunday resulted in deadlock, no political side able to form a government.

“While we’ve seen very different visions clash, sometimes with improvised programmes, deeper questions about human meaning and the common good haven’t been addressed,” the Bishop of Nanterre, the Rt Revd Matthieu Rougé, said. “For men and women of faith, political thinking is now urgently needed — the capacity for responsibility, unity, and respectful dialogue will be key if there’s to be a government worthy of the name.”

Bishop Rougé, who is chaplain to France’s Assemblée Nationale, spoke as confirmed results from the second-round ballot showed a hung parliament, with none of the three main electoral blocs in a position to govern. He told France’s Christian RCF radio network that the risk of institutional breakdown made it essential for to work together for “social reconciliation”.

A Protestant leader also called on all denominations to help overcome “national confusion” by showing that another form of society was possible.

“It must be a society where the divisions over origin, gender, and social condition that fracture humanity do not prevail,” the president of the National Council of French Evangelicals, Erwan Cloarec, told the international edition of Christianity Today. “We owe it to the world to ensure the divisiveness and invective at work globally aren’t imported into our communities.”

France’s far-Right National Rally, headed by Marine Le Pen, was beaten into third place with 143 of the National Assembly’s 577 seats, behind Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left-wing New Popular Front, which gained 182, and President Macron’s Ensemble Alliance, which took 168.

National Rally remains the largest single parliamentary party, however, after the snap election, which was called by Macron after its success in European elections on 8 June.

In an appeal last month, the French Catholic Bishops’ Conference said that the European vote had revealed an “anxious, pained, and divided society”, with problems compounded by “dissolved social ties, weakened families, pressure from consumption, a diminished respect for life, and erasure of God from the common conscience”.

The country’s Protestant Federation said that election debates had “divided as much as mobilised”, as “cultural dams” were overwhelmed by a “nauseating wave of racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic hate speech”.

“We must learn to listen collectively to the suffering and provide it with appropriate political responses,” the president of the Federation, Christian Krieger, said in a statement last week. “May everyone reject hateful and divisive speeches and promote love, justice, and peace — and let us pray our representatives are guided by values of humanism, respect, and fraternity.”

Legislation on assisted suicide and other controversial issues will lapse under the new parliament in France, where Macron’s liberal government backed a vote in March making the country the world’s first to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution.

In his RCF interview, Bishop Rougé said that RC leaders would remain “highly vigilant” on issues of human dignity, while promoting a “responsible and peaceful political language”.

A leader of the United Protestant Church of France, Caroline Bretones, told Christianity Today that minority Protestants had “learned to live discreetly” after past persecution, while “developing a keen sense of responsibility and social commitment”.

“If they have a decisive role to play today, it’s not by making public statements demonising certain parties,” Ms Bretones said. “It’s by bringing diverse men and women together on an ethnic, cultural, social, and professional level around a Christian hope that goes beyond frustrations and easy solutions.”

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