Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Many French Catholics Say Pope Unwelcome

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Many French Catholics Say Pope Unwelcome

Article excerpt

When Pope John Paul II lands in France Sept. 19 to, begin a four-day visit, his first visit since 1980, hell could break loose. The pope could be confronted with heated Gallic anger and the world could get a close look at how deep the divisions have grown in the Catholic church in the past decade.

No nation claims a prouder Catholic history than France; no nation has rejected Catholicism as roundly as has France. Until now. Each week brings new evidence that French Catholics are ripping mad at this pope and intend to make their feelings known.

The French are proud people and are smarting over years of perceived Vatican arrogance, culminating, perhaps, in the 1995 Vatican ouster of French Bishop Jacques Gaillot. The Vatican gave Gaillot 24 hours to step down as bishop after months of internal conflict stemming from the popular bishop's views on homosexuality, priest celibacy and other touchy issues. Gaillot remains immensely popular in France; Pope John Paul II is not.

Word from France last week was that hundreds of disillusioned Catholics were renouncing their baptisms as a means to "just say no" to the pope.

Last week a crude homemade bomb was discovered in a church where the pope will make one of his first stops. In the St. Laurent-sur-Sevre basilica in western France, police found an inscription in Latin and French: "In the name of the pope, boom."

The Associated Press quoted one Frenchman as saying: "The pope is passe." Said Jean Gilbert, a 40-something ex-Catholic lawyer, "I finally excommunicated myself. …

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