Whether their faith is discreet or notorious, whether they believe in “Forces of the mind” or in God the father, the presidents of the Ve Republic rarely waived to visit the Pope. With the notable exception of Georges Pompidou, who, in post-sixty-eight France, had preferred to avoid an official trip to the Vatican, everyone, from General de Gaulle the fervent Catholic to François Hollande the atheist, gave in to the ritual. And if no head of state can affirm, like de Gaulle, that if “The Republic is secular, France is Christian”, all know that Catholicism occupies a special place within the former eldest daughter of the Church.
Emmanuel Macron, who goes to the Vatican on Friday November 26 for an audience with Pope Francis, is fully aware of the highly symbolic scope of his gesture on this side of the Alps. And the Elysee may recall that the president addresses the Pope as well as the various religious representatives, Jews, Muslims or Protestants, this visit to the Sovereign Pontiff, after that of June 26, 2018, five months before the presidential election, can be read as special attention paid to Catholics in France.
She is hardly the first. On April 9, 2018, under the vaults of the Collège des Bernardins in Paris, in front of the bishops of France, the Head of State said he wanted ” to fix “ the “Damaged link” between Church and State. One way to woo this electorate mainly tempted by the right. During the 2017 presidential election, the votes of practicing Catholics were largely focused on François Fillon (Les Républicains). The rest was divided between the candidate of the extreme right, Marine Le Pen, and Emmanuel Macron, recalls Jérôme Fourquet, director of the opinion pole of the FIFG and co-author of France before our eyes (Threshold, 496 pages, 23 euros).
Thus, this public hitherto rather reluctant to vote on the extreme right had taken the plunge. “2017 also marked the almost total disappearance of those we called the ‘left cathos'”, observes M. Fourquet. A phenomenon documented in the essay The Great Fear of Catholics in France (Grasset, 2018) by the Vaticanist Henri Tincq, former journalist at World, died in 2020, who claimed at the time “No longer recognize one’s Church”.
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Five years later, in a France shaken up by identity debates, the irruption of the still undeclared candidate Eric Zemmour, whose speech seeks to seduce a conservative Catholic France, risks accentuating the porosity of this electorate with the far right. . Emmanuel Macron’s trip to the Vatican aims, in part, to demonstrate the part of the inconsistency underlying this electoral choice. “It is never useless to remind all Catholics of the founding values of openness, benevolence and respect for others carried by their religion”, indicates a relative of the head of state.
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Presidential 2022: from Rome, Emmanuel Macron tries to address Catholics