Pope’s Visit to France Stirs Debate Over Immigration Secularism

Pope’s Visit to France Stirs Debate Over Immigration Secularism: The Pope’s scheduled next week visit to France has sparked controversy among French politicians, with left-wing politicians criticizing the president for attending mass while the far-right parties disagree with the pope’s supportive stance on immigration.

Pope Francis will travel to Marseille, France’s second city and a historic gateway for immigrants. In France, he will send a message of tolerance towards migrants. He will also celebrate Sunday Mass to an expected 60,000 at the city’s famous soccer stadium.

The Elysee Palace, the official residence of the President of the French Republic confirmed on Thursday that President Emmanuel Macron will attend the Mass. The news immediately caused a barrage of criticism from left-wing politicians who said it goes against the French state’s secular values.

“A president should not show preference for one particular religion,” the head of the French Communist party, Fabien Roussel, said.

Political talk shows frequently become heated over a disagreement over the Pontiff’s unique style of secularism, known as Laicite. The debate includes whether or not nativity scenes should be allowed in public spaces and whether or not the government should continue to honor religious festivals.

The French president’s advisers said French leaders had attended Mass before, and there was “confusion” as to what secularism means.

“The Republic neither recognizes nor funds any religion, but that does in no way rule out the fact that the Republic should cultivate relations with all religions,” one adviser said. They said Macron would not take communion at the mass.

Meanwhile, the far-right took aim at the pope’s welcoming message on immigration. Leading the charge was Marion Marechal, niece of far-right leader Marine Le Pen and a candidate for European parliament elections next year.

“I disagree with Pope Francis,” Marechal said on BFM TV on Thursday. “He has his the prism of a South-American pope who doesn’t actually know the type of immigration we know and who, clearly, doesn’t fully realize what we’re dealing with.”


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