Religious freedom defended

France – A spokesman for France’s bishops urged the government to ensure a new ‘charter of secularism’ does not impede religious freedom.

Msgr Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference, told the French Catholic daily La Croix that although Church officials understood why the government sent the document to schools last week, “secularism must not be hollow or limited to negating and hindering religions”.

Msgr Podvin said Catholic leaders understood that politicians feared people would use religion as an “identity emblem”, but added that religious faith formed part of the French values of “liberty, equality and fraternity”.

“If we don’t cultivate a true knowledge of religions, young people won’t be able to respect others in a just way. We’ll have sanctified the public sphere, but risked a resurgence of communitarianism in the process,” he added.