Pursuit of the common good, attention to the weakest members of society, reception and integration of migrants, support to the European project, and ecological commitment – these are some of the traits that should characterise the work of the new president of the Republic according to the Secretary General of the French Bishops’ Conference Mgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas. The statement was issued late in the evening after the first votes had been counted. The second round, in two weeks’ time, will be between the independent candidate Emmanuel Macron and the National Front leader Marine Le Pen with 21.4%. In the note, the General Secretary recalls that the Church never asks to “vote for one candidate or another but, considering what is at stake in an election, rather wants to give elements for reflection and discernment”. First the Bishops ask that our “democracy be not turned into a violent society”. Hence they call on the candidates to foster “a true national debate” and to refrain from “aggressive behaviour, misleading slogans and personal ambition”. A debate – the Bishops write – in which even the media can play a decisive role in preventing any drift towards “hysteria”. The note then goes on to list some topics of concern to the French Bishops. Mgr. Dumas asks: “What kind of society do we want to build? What kind of society do we long for?”. The answer of the Catholic Bishops is: “The dignity of our society lies in respect for the most vulnerable of its members, from the start to the natural end of their lives”. “A living society – Ribadeau Dumas writes – cannot but be based on the pursuit of the common good and the effective implementation of solidarity plans. In practice, this means that the State should take care of “the poorest, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the unemployed. Neglecting the most vulnerable means dividing society”.
Another crucial issue in this presidential election is that of migrants. The stance of the French Church on this point is clear: The increase in the number of migrants, due to a number of factors, is a reality, not a controversy. In the face of countries that are welcoming millions of refugees, how can our country refuse to receive and integrate tens of thousands of these victims? Our commitment to solidary cannot be restricted to the limited framework of our country”. Hence the invitation addressed by the French Bishops to Europe to commit itself “with courage” to implementing “reception policies” and “programmes to support the countries where migration flows originate”. At this point, the Catholic Church in France reiterates her firm “yes” to Europe. “There is a need – Ribadeau Dumas writes – to foster the commitment of the European peoples to the European project” by promoting greater “subsidiarity” in each of them (States and Europe) through the exercise of their own responsibilities and functions”. The statement ends with a reference to ecological commitment, with an “urgent” invitation to reconsider consumption patterns in order to build a “fairer and less destructive world”.