French prayer to oppose gay unions
The French Catholic Church will revive a centuries-old custom next week with an updated national "prayer for France" opposing the same-sex marriage and euthanasia reforms planned by the new Socialist government.
The prayer, to be read in all churches on August 15th, echoes the defence of traditional marriage by Pope Benedict and Catholic leaders around the world as gay nuptials gain acceptance, especially in Europe and North America.
King Louis XIII decreed in 1638 that all churches would pray on Aug 15, the day Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, for the good of the country.
The annual practice fell into disuse after World War Two.
In the text, Catholics will pray for newly elected officials "so that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands."
This would include support for traditional families "throughout their lives, especially in painful moments."
Opposing gay adoption, it says children should "cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother."
The prayer is unusual for French bishops, who usually keep a low political profile. Church spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said they wanted to "raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices."
Pope Benedict said in January that same-sex marriage threatened "the future of humanity itself."
Socialist President Francois Hollande pledged during the election campaign earlier this year to reform marriage laws and his government has said it would do so early next year.
Opinion polls say about two-thirds of the French support gay marriage.
Defending the Church's opposition, Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin said marriage was defined at the very start of the Bible as created by God to join man and woman.
"Nobody should be surprised that we Catholics think the first page of the Bible is right, even more so than a parliament," he told Europe 1 radio.
Hollande has also expressed sympathy for euthanasia, which is not allowed in France, and named a commission to review whether the current law stressing palliative care for the dying needed to be expanded.
Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois discussed the issue with Hollande during their first official meeting in July. He did not oppose the review but said: "Just because one asks a question doesn't mean one answers it positively."