Source: The Guardian
All across the continent, compassion has run dry as the right ignores the Gospel lessons
It is chocolate time for French children this morning, thanks to les cloches volantes – the flying bells. Legend has it that France’s church bells are silent between Good Friday and Easter Sunday because they fly to Rome to be blessed by the pope and then return laden with chocolate goodies. Children will be hunting in the grass for them as the bells ring out news of Christ’s resurrection. For a country that has always seemed secular, thanks to its sharp divide between church and state, France remains remarkably Catholic in its traditions.
But it is not Catholicism or other Christian denominations that have dominated political discourse about religion in France in recent years. It is Islam that has filled the headlines, due, first, to a preoccupation with mass migration from the Middle East and France’s former colonies in Africa, and, more recently, with Islamist attacks in Paris and Nice. There was also the murder of Father Jacques Hamel last July, killed as he prepared to celebrate Mass. The nation’s distress at the slaying of the priest in front of his altar strengthened identification with the church and moved Catholic opinion further to the right.
Even today, two-thirds of French people identify themselves as Catholic. Politicians have noted this, as well as the rightwards drift of voters. In a week’s time, the French will vote in the first round of their presidential election. The mood is angry . One in 10 of the workforce is unemployed. Poverty is on the rise. Just as people in the US and UK rejected the status quo by voting for Trump and Brexit, concern is growing that France might vote for the Front National’s Marine Le Pen.