Prayer sparks gay rights row

Assumption church services included call for children to have "a father and a mother"

15 August 2012

A PRAYER led in French Catholic churches to mark Assumption Day has sparked intense reaction as it contained strong support for traditional marriage - when the government has promised to legalise gay marriage.

The "prayer for France" from Cardinal André Vingt-Trois called for support for the victims of the economic crisis and for the young but also said that children should "cease to be objects of the desires and conflicts of adults and fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother".

President Hollande's government has said it will legalise same-sex marriage in 2013.

The prayer was addressed to "those who have been recently elected to legislate and govern" adding the wish "that their sense of the common good will overcome special demands".

Gay rights groups have attacked it as an intrusion by the church into politics with Act Up saying it was an "attack on homosexuality". Michael Bouvard, of SOS Homophobia, said the message was "a breeding ground for discrimination and homophobia".

Others have pointed to the fact that at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris the prayer was given by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, a senior Vatican official close to Pope Benedict who leads a group promoting evangelism.

Monsignor Bernard Podvin, of the Conférence des Evêques de France, said that it was not homophobic fear but a "fear for the future of the child, of the family of tomorrow". He said the prayer should stimulate debate.

However, the prayer was not read out in every parish and Le Figaro quoted parishioners from Saint-Merri in Paris 4th arrondissement who said they had decided not to use it as the "text had no place on this day of celebration".

Assumption is a national holiday across Europe to celebrate the raising of the Virgin Mary to heaven.

Opinion polls have said that 65% of people support same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions have been legal since 1999.

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