Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pope's Visit to France

Here is a Zenit article on Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to France:

Benedict XVI Eager to Address World of Culture

Spokesman Says Discourse Is Highly Anticipated

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2008 ( Benedict XVI is looking forward to addressing the French world of culture this week, says a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters Tuesday that the Pope is preparing with great care the address he will deliver Friday afternoon to individuals from the world of thought, science and art, as well as representatives of UNESCO and the European Union. The gathering will take place at the recently restored College of the Bernardines in Paris.

The Pontiff will travel Friday-Monday to Paris and Lourdes. His visit to the Marian shrine, which begins Saturday, takes place in the context of the 150th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady to Bernadette Soubirous.

Father Lombardi said the Holy Father's address to the world of culture "is greatly anticipated. It is a text that the Pope has prepared with great eagerness."

He said the original is written in German; it has been translated into French. Benedict XVI has dedicated a good part of his magisterium to the relation between faith and reason.

The place of the meeting is very symbolic, said the Vatican spokesman, as "it has a great history."

It is an architectural complex founded in 1245 by a Cistercian monk at the request of Pope Innocent IV, who was convinced that the renewal of the Church should be through study.

Father Lombardi explained that Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, deceased archbishop of Paris, "succeeded in having the Church recover the use of this center as the place of meeting between the Church and culture."

The archdiocese has worked for seven years to restore the center. The work was completed a few weeks ago. The official inauguration will take place with Benedict XVI's visit.

During his stay in Paris, the Holy Father will meet with political leaders, representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as representatives of the other Christian confessions.

In a separate yet related article, Zenit noted of France the following:

The country, often called the cradle of secularism, boasts the lowest Church attendance rate in all of Europe.

A 2005 study by the Center for the Study on Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, found that Church attendance in some areas of France is as low as 10%.

A 2000 study by the Swedish-based World Values Survey showed that nearly 60% of French people "never" or "practically never" attend church. France had the highest percentage of non-churchgoers among 14 European countries. Britain and the Netherlands followed behind with 55% and 48%, respectively.

A 2006 study by research group CSA in conjunction with Le Monde des Religions that found only 26% of French Catholics (who make up 55% of the population of France) say they’re sure that God exists, and the same number say it’s probable.

"France has been living off the moral patrimony of its Christian past for more than two centuries," said [noted American Catholic author George ] Weigel. "The account is now drawn down, and the bank of moral credit is getting empty."

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