Thousands of demonstrators march in Paris on Jan 13 to protest France’s planned legalisation of same-sex marriage. CNS photo Thousands of demonstrators march in Paris on Jan 13 to protest France’s planned legalisation of same-sex marriage. CNS photo

PARIS – A French bishops’ spokesman urged politicians to “listen to the streets” after hundreds of thousands of people rallied against same-sex marriage.

“We’re facing questions about society – what the family is, what marriage is, and whether there’s a difference between men and women,” Msgr Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference, told France’s Metro daily.

“I’m not one who says the street must decide, because this is always dangerous, and political responsibility rests with those elected. But the street is expressing a great frustration today – those holding political responsibility can’t expect to govern without listening to what it’s saying,” he said.

The Jan 13 demonstration was organised by a coalition of 30 family groups. Organisers said 800,000 people participated, although French police put the number at 340,000.

Msgr Podvin said the Catholic Church believed homosexuals “must be respected,” but was against the same-sex bill, which was introduced in November by the government of President Francois Hollande under the slogan, “Marriage for All”. In addition to legalising same-sex marriage, it would allow adoption by same-sex couples.

“In our eyes, there’s nothing contradictory between fighting firmly against homophobia and saying no to a radical transformation of the family model,” Msgr Podvin said.

At the conclusion of the demonstration, protesters in Paris’ Champ de Mars called on President Hollande to “hear and understand the people of France”, adding that the bill had “deeply divided” the population and provoked opposition “from right and left and the unaffiliated”.

They said the legislation “means inscribing in our law a fundamental discrimination: between those who will be born from a father and mother, and those who will be legally ‘born’ from two fathers or two mothers”.

France’s Le Figaro daily said several Catholic bishops – including Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon – joined the rally privately with diocesan groups.

In a brief address to protesters in Place Denfert-Rochereau, the bishops’ conference president, Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, said he had not participated because his “mode of communication” with the government was “not the demonstration, but direct dialogue”. n CNS

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