Friday, April 08, 2005
Chirac and Rice at PJPII Funeral Mass
France Urged to Skip Official Papal Honors:
"France may be a predominantly Roman Catholic country, but it is also officially secular, with separation of church and state one of its most sacred tenets.
So while the death of Pope John Paul II has brought widespread mourning, there has also been pressure on the French Republic not to honor him officially.
From the outside, none of this should seem to matter much. After all, since early Catholicism, France has been called the "eldest daughter of the church" and 62 percent of the French people identify themselves as Catholic, according to a 2003 poll.
But the country is also struggling to shore up its secular identity after banning religious symbols, including Muslim head scarves, Jewish yarmulkes and large Christian crosses, from schools.
The conflict, though, distracts attention from the real religious crisis, both in France and in Europe as a whole: the withering of the Catholic faith.
Only about 12 percent of French Catholics attend Mass every week. Meanwhile, weekly attendance of French Muslims at Friday Prayer is soaring.