Category : France

(NYT) Building a Mosque in France, Never Easy, May Get Even Harder

As the temperature hovered around freezing, hundreds of men trickled into a former slaughterhouse on a recent Friday. In the overflow crowd outside, scores more unfurled their prayer mats on the asphalt as the imam’s voice intoned through loudspeakers.

The old slaughterhouse has served as a temporary mosque for the past 21 years for many Muslims in Angers, a city in western France. Construction on a permanent home has stalled since last fall when the City Council unanimously rejected a proposal by Muslim leaders to hand ownership of their unfinished mosque to the government of Morocco in return for its completion. Local members, after donating more than $2.8 million, were tapped out.

Building a mosque in France is a tortuous endeavor at the best of times. Members tend to be poorer than other French people. Turning to foreign donors raises a host of concerns — both inside and outside Muslim communities — that are coming under intensifying scrutiny with President Emmanuel Macron’s new law against Islamism, which is expected to get final approval in the Senate in coming weeks.

Complicating matters for Muslims has been France’s principle of secularism, called laïcité, which established a firewall between state and church. While the government regards itself as strictly neutral before all faiths, the law effectively made the state the biggest landlord of Roman Catholic churches in France and the guardian of cultural Roman Catholicism.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(NYT) ‘I Have No Money for Food’: Among the Young, Hunger Is Rising

Amandine Chéreau hurried from her cramped student apartment in suburban Paris to catch a train for an hourlong trip into the city. Her stomach rumbled with hunger, she said, as she headed for a student-run food bank near the Bastille, where she joined a snaking line with 500 young people waiting for handouts.

Ms. Chéreau, 19, a university student, ran out of savings in September after the pandemic ended the babysitting and restaurant jobs she had relied on. By October, she had resorted to eating one meal a day, and said she had lost 20 pounds.

“I have no money for food,” said Ms. Chéreau, whose father helps pay her tuition and rent, but couldn’t send more after he was laid off from his job of 20 years in August. “It’s frightening,” she added, as students around her reached for vegetables, pasta and milk. “And it’s all happening so fast.”

As the pandemic begins its second year, humanitarian organizations in Europe are warning of an alarming rise in food insecurity among young people, following a steady stream of campus closings, job cuts and layoffs in their families. A growing share are facing hunger and mounting financial and psychological strain, deepening disparities for the most vulnerable populations.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, France, Poverty, Teens / Youth, Young Adults

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Vincent de Paul & Louise de Marillac

Most Gracious God, who hast bidden us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before thee; Teach us, like thy servants Vincent and Louise, to see and to serve Christ by feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick; that we may know him to be the giver of all good things, through the same, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Church History, France, Poverty, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) Heating Up Culture Wars, France to Scour Universities for Ideas That ‘Corrupt Society’

Stepping up its attacks on social science theories that it says threaten France, the French government announced this week that it would launch an investigation into academic research that it says feeds “Islamo-leftist’’ tendencies that “corrupt society.’’

News of the investigation immediately caused a fierce backlash among university presidents and scholars, deepening fears of a crackdown on academic freedom — especially on studies of race, gender, post-colonial studies and other fields that the French government says have been imported from American universities and contribute to undermining French society.

While President Emmanuel Macron and some of his top ministers have spoken out forcefully against what they see as a destabilizing influence from American campuses in recent months, the announcement marked the first time that the government has moved to take action.

It came as France’s lower house of Parliament passed a draft law against Islamism, an ideology it views as encouraging terrorist attacks, and as Mr. Macron tilts further to the right, anticipating nationalist challenges ahead of elections next year.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Hilary of Poitiers

O Lord our God, who didst raise up thy servant Hilary to be a champion of the catholic faith: Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having thee for our Father, and may abide in thy Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; thou who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

([London] Times) France given green light for bionic soldiers

The French army has been given the go-ahead to develop bionic soldiers resistant to pain and stress and endowed with extra brain power thanks to microchip implants.

The approval came from the ethical committee of the armed forces ministry, which said in a report that France needed to keep up with countries that were already working to produce super-soldiers.

The committee gave details of some lines of research, including pills to keep troops awake for long periods and surgery to improve hearing. Other areas in the “field of study” involve implants which release anti-stress substances or “improve cerebral capacity”.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Christopher Caldwell–Macron Seeks an Enlightened Islam

Devout Catholics have often chafed under laïcité. But having either lived through or studied the Dreyfus era, they understood laïcité’s historic logic. Today’s young Muslims have no such folk memory. And history has moved on. In 1905, mass movements—socialism above all—were ready to provide antireligious muscle for the state. Today they are weaker, and they face a different religion, one that does not feature “turn the other cheek” among its precepts.

Nor does Islam have any hierarchy through which the state’s commands can efficiently resonate. When Combes told the church to close thousands of schools, bishops obliged. Laïcité requires such institutional interlocutors. Where France once tore down Catholic institutions, it must now build up Muslim ones. The CFCM is one example. As part of his antifundamentalist push, Mr. Macron has called for more Arabic instruction in schools.

The French leaders who invented laïcité knew the church. They were often lapsed Catholics themselves. Now when they sing the praises of an “Islam of the Enlightenment,” one wonders whether this is a realistic prospect or a figment of their ideological imaginations. Muslims may prefer the real Islam they have studied and lived to the licensed, accredited Islam of “Republican values” that Mr. Macron is proposing.

Every Western country has a version of this problem. All our treasured “values” were formulated for a society more uniform and more orderly than today’s. Why do we assume these values will survive diversity? Why does France assume that a system devised to subordinate its historic religion can serve just as well to mediate between its more recent secularism and a (rising) foreign religion? For a long time laïcité has rested less on its own logic than on the forbearance of its citizens. Under conditions of globalization, mass migration and the ethnic and religious recomposition of that citizenry, such forbearance can no longer be assumed.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(BBC) France launches checks on dozens of mosques

The French authorities have launched inspections of dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of links to Islamist extremism.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced the crackdown, saying some could be closed if found to be encouraging “separatism”.

It comes a week before the unveiling of a new law to combat such extremism.

It is a response to attacks in October, blamed on Islamists, including the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty.

In a note to regional security chiefs, reported by French media, Mr Darmanin said there would be special checks and surveillance for 76 mosques and prayer halls, 16 of them in the Paris region.

He ordered “immediate action” concerning 18 of them, with the first checks set to be done on Thursday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(BBC) France Islam: Muslims under pressure to sign French values charter

France’s Muslim Council is due to meet President Emmanuel Macron this week, to confirm the text of a new “charter of Republican values” for imams in the country to sign.

The Council (CFCM), which represents nine separate Muslim associations, has reportedly been asked to include in the text recognition of France’s Republican values, rejection of Islam as a political movement and a ban on foreign influence.

“We do not all agree on what this charter of values is, and what it will contain,” said Chems-Eddine Hafiz, vice-president of the CFCM and Rector of the Paris Grand Mosque. But, he said, “we are at a historic turning point for Islam in France [and] we Muslims are facing our responsibilities”.

Eight years ago, he said, he thought very differently.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin of Tours

Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

(RNS) After Nice attacks, Pope Francis and French Catholics call for peace with Muslims

After a man killed three people Thursday (Oct. 29) at the Catholic cathedral in Nice, France, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the French Catholic community, offering prayers for the victims as well as wishes that “the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

The attack, one of three on Thursday attributed to Muslim extremists, took place in the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice as a man reportedly yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” stabbed the cathedral’s custodian and two women, one of whom was taken to a nearby café but later died, according to The Associated Press.

“It’s a moment of pain, in a time of confusion,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni in a statement to reporters. “Terrorism and violence must never be tolerated. Today’s attack sowed death in a place of love and consolations, such as the house of the Lord.

“The pope is informed of the situation and is close to the grieving Catholic community,” the Vatican statement continued. “He prays for the victims and their loved ones, so that the violence will cease, and they may return to see each other as brothers and sisters and not enemies so that the beloved French people may respond united for good against evil.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(CNA) Cardinal Sarah says West must wake up to threat of Islamism after three killed at French Catholic church

Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah said Thursday that the West must wake up to the threat of Islamism after three people were killed at a French church by an attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

The Guinean cardinal wrote on Twitter Oct. 29 that “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination.”

“It will not stop its war. Unfortunately, we Africans know this all too well. The barbarians are always the enemies of peace,” the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote.

“The West, today France, must understand this. Let us pray.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Guinea, Italy, Politics in General, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(Sky News) Three die in France in ‘suspected terror incident’

A woman has been decapitated in a suspected terror attack in Nice, French police say.

Three people have died and several others are injured after a knife attack took place near the Notre Dame church.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(WSJ) France Vows to Root Out Islamist Extremism After Beheading of Teacher Samuel Paty

French authorities vowed to crack down on civic groups they said were promoting radical Islam, days after an extremist beheaded a schoolteacher for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Monday said that 51 associations, including religious schools and mosques, would be visited by security services this week, and a number of them dissolved. Authorities Monday conducted searches targeting 40 suspected extremist individuals and associations, and have opened more than 80 investigations into extremist sentiment expressed online since the attack, officials said.

“We must stop being naive,” Mr. Darmanin said. “There is no reconciliation possible with radical Islam.”

The actions reflect tensions between parts of France’s Muslim community and authorities in the aftermath of the slaying of the teacher, 47-year-old Samuel Paty, in an attack that shocked the nation.

Read it all.

Posted in Education, France, Terrorism, Violence

(AP) On sad anniversary, few to mourn the D-Day dead in Normandy

At least the dead will always be there.

All too many have been, for 76 years since that fateful June 6 on France’s Normandy beaches, when allied troops in 1944 turned the course of World War II and went on to defeat fascism in Europe in one of the most remarkable feats in military history.

Forgotten they will never be. Revered, yes. But Saturday’s anniversary will be one of the loneliest remembrances ever, as the coronavirus pandemic is keeping almost everyone away — from government leaders to frail veterans who might not get another chance for a final farewell to their unlucky comrades.

Rain and wind are also forecast, after weeks of warm, sunny weather.

“I miss the others,” said Charles Shay, who as a U.S. Army medic was in the first wave of soldiers to wade ashore at Omaha Beach under relentless fire on D-Day.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, France, History, Military / Armed Forces

(NYT) Visiting My Grandparents, Separated by Plexiglass

The coronavirus has killed about 14,000 residents of nursing homes in France — half the country’s death toll. We are lucky that, so far, none of those deaths occurred at my grandparents’ home, where the caregivers have been vigilant about social distancing.

As France began easing its lockdown last week, we were finally able to visit, or rather sit outside the home, as my grandparents sat inside, a few feet away. To allow us to hear each other, the staff opened the door, but placed a table with a plexiglass partition in the doorway.

We could see my grandparents only one at a time, since they are in different parts of the home that can no longer mix socially. My grandfather, a former stone mason, misses many things that we cannot yet deliver, like shorts, because of the home’s strict rules. But it is my grandmother’s company that he misses most.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(NYT) George Steiner, Prodigious Literary Critic, Dies at 90

George Steiner, a literary polymath and man of letters whose voluminous criticism often dealt with the paradox of literature’s moral power and its impotence in the face of an event like the Holocaust, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. David Steiner.

An essayist, fiction writer, teacher, scholar and literary critic — he succeeded Edmund Wilson as senior book reviewer for The New Yorker from 1966 until 1997 — Mr. Steiner both dazzled and dismayed his readers with the range and occasional obscurity of his literary references.

Essential to his views, as he avowed in “Grammars of Creation,” a book based on the Gifford Lectures he delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1990, “is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, France, History, Judaism, Poetry & Literature, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Hilary of Poitiers

O Lord our God, who didst raise up thy servant Hilary to be a champion of the catholic faith: Keep us steadfast in that true faith which we professed at our baptism, that we may rejoice in having thee for our Father, and may abide in thy Son, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; thou who livest and reignest for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

A BBC Article about the Struggle with Militant Islamism in Western Africa

The current French operation has been running since 2014, co-ordinating on security issues with Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

They are fighting a complex web of jihadist groups that Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou has described as having become “professionals in the art of war”.

An attack by jihadists on an army base earlier this month led to the deaths of more than 70 soldiers in Niger.

In November, 13 French troops died in a helicopter collision during an operation against jihadists in Mali, the biggest single loss of life for the French military since the 1980s.

Regional leaders have called for more international support to tackle the militants but there has also been rising anti-French sentiment and protests in some cities in the region.

Read it all.

Posted in Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Mali, Military / Armed Forces, Niger, Politics in General, Terrorism

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin of Tours

Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) Death of ISIS leader is little consolation to a changed France

The death of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was met this week with no outpouring of joy or even relief in France, even though this is the European country that suffered most from his depredations.

The reason is simple: the Islamic State’s crimes, and the fear they instilled in the national psyche, are so ingrained in France that the daily fabric of life has been inexorably altered.

As if proof were needed, within the last month, a former far-right candidate shot two Muslims who stopped him from burning down a mosque. A Muslim mother was reprimanded by an official for wearing a head scarf. And President Emmanuel Macron called for a “society of vigilance” after a Muslim employee at Police Headquarters in Paris killed four officers in a knife attack.

These recent symptoms of what some call an ongoing trauma for France demonstrate why Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death was ‘‘no more than a step,” as Mr. Macron put it Sunday in a muted reaction to the news.

Read it all.

Posted in France, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(France 24) Evangelical churches gaining ground in France

“In France, a new Evangelical church is built every 10 days, thanks to the efforts of highly motivated young believers. Once a fringe religious movement, Evangelism (sic) is gaining ground and now counts 700,000 followers across France. What are the reasons for this success? Our France 2 colleagues report, with FRANCE 24’s Emerald Maxwell.”

Watch it all (about 4 2/3 minutes).

Posted in Evangelicals, France, Religion & Culture

Congratulations to the USA Women’s National Team for Winning their Semifinal over England Today 2-1

Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, France, Sports, Women

USA Women’s World Cup Team survives a very tough match against France to win 2-1 and advance to the Semifinals

Posted in America/U.S.A., France, Sports, Women

England hammer Norway to reach consecutive Women’s World Cup semi-finals

The Lionesses got off to the perfect start when Jill Scott tapped home Lucy Bronze’s cutback inside three minutes after a miss-kick from Ellen White, before a wonderful team move was finished off by White – taking her joint top of the World Cup goalscoring charts – five minutes before half time.

Bronze then put the icing on the victory with a fabulous strike from a well-worked free-kick in the 57th minute, with Nikita Parris even having penalty saved well by Norway keeper Ingrid Hjelmseth after England captain Steph Houghton was pushed in the box late on.

England will now face the winners of the match between France and USA in the last four and will fancy their chances after such an impressive showing in Le Havre.

The tournament’s fastest goal – timed at 126 seconds – put England on course for victory as veteran Scott finished after great work from Bronze to create the opening.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, France, Norway, Sports, Women

Congratulations to Rafael Nadal Who Today Won the French Open for the 12th Time

Posted in France, Men, Spain, Sports

(CNN) A 97-year-old vet jumped out of a plane to recreate his D-Day parachute drop

For most people, a summer trip to France is a chance to relax in beautiful surroundings and to savor the country’s fine food. For Tom Rice of San Diego, it’s an opportunity to relive the time he nearly died jumping from a C-47 Douglas airplane, then was shot at, again and again.
Despite being 97, Rice climbed once more into the bone-rattling fuselage of a C-47 and, while flying over the Normandy fields where he first saw action in 1944, leaped into the unknown.

Those on the ground watched the anxiety-inducing descent as, strapped to another parachutist dangling beneath a red, white and blue canopy, the old man coasted through the sky, another gigantic American flag billowing out behind him.

Reaching the ground with only a slight stumble on impact, Rice proudly gave V for victory signs with his hands and, wearing a 101st Airborne baseball cap, said he felt “great” and was ready to “go back up and do it again.”

Read it all (and if you have time the video is delightful).

Posted in America/U.S.A., France, History, Military / Armed Forces

(CLJ) Anne-Sophie Constant on Jean Vanier–The Message Is the Messenger

God has revealed his mysteries to little children; he has chosen the weak of the world to shame the strong. But this is difficult to hear and believe. Jean Vanier didn’t believe it in the beginning, either. The man who settled in Trosly with Philippe and Raphaël in 1964 thought he knew what he was doing. At least, he knew what he wanted: shocked by the living conditions of people with intellectual disabilities, he wanted to give them a more dignified life and to help them be fulfilled. He had few doubts that he would know what must be done and how they should live. He was wise and well-educated. He was cultured, efficient, organized, generous, and religious. But he quickly discovered that these were not qualities that mattered for his new companions. Little did he know at that time that they were the ones who would help him understand himself. It was they, the weak and despised ones, who would become his “masters in humanity,” in a way that was totally upside-down for him.

I discovered that we grew together and that it was they who helped to fulfill me, they who little by little revealed to me my humanity, they who led me further and further into a world of friendship and communion that healed my heart and awakened life in me. Yes, I knew how to do things, I knew how to organize, lead, and teach. I could be efficient, but I discovered that that was not primarily what they wanted from me. They wanted what was most important: a presence, a relationship, love.

What Philippe and Raphaël wanted was a friend, someone who could simply be happy in their company, someone who would love them just as they were. “Living with Philippe and Raphaël, these two men who were so fragile and weak, having suffered so much from rejection, I discovered that everyone thirsts for communion with other human beings.” What surprised Jean was that he found that same thirst in himself. He discovered that there is a wounded child hiding in each of us, a child who has been calling in vain, whom we wall up and silence with our social standards, professional titles, and personal successes. We have hidden this inner child behind so many walls that we have eventually forgotten him. Yet he is awakened in us by the cry of the poor, by their raw thirst for relationships and love, their inability to play the social games of power and prestige, their inability to disguise their feelings, and their lack of satisfaction with those superficial relationships that we settle for all too often.

Read it all.

Posted in France, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CT) Jean Vanier RIP

“Over the last forty-two years we’ve had many deaths, and we’ve spent a lot of time celebrating death. It’s very fundamental to our community,” he wrote, referencing his experience in L’Arche community of Trosly-Breuil, France—where Vanier began the first of an international network of communities for people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities to live together in faith and friendship.

As he recounted in his book Living Gently in a Violent World, “To celebrate death is to gather around and talk about the person—about Janine, for example, who died recently. We gathered to say how beautiful she was, how much she had brought to us. Her sisters came, and we wept and laughed at the same time. We wept because she was gone, but we laughed because she did so many beautiful things.”

Likewise, those of us who have been formed and inspired by Jean Vanier have hearts heavy with both grief and gratitude as we celebrate the beautiful things we learned from a leader who helped us all to become more human.

We don’t often find people born into privilege and status, and highly educated, who then follow the downward path of Jesus. But as founder of L’Arche International, Vanier spent decades in community with people with and without intellectual disabilities and embraced the joys, complications, and demands that go along with such a life.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, France, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Psephizo) Isabelle Hamley–Why does Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral matter?

It was therefore deeply moving, last night, to hear journalists groping for words they had almost forgotten—words that speak of faith and what faith had meant to the nation over the years. Many of them were trying to put into words the sense of connection they felt to the cathedral, how moved they were to hear hymns and prayers from Christians surrounding them, and find words that would nurture hope. This morning, journalists were tentatively using the word ‘miracle’ as they contemplated the picture of the inside of the cathedral, the cross illuminated from the side windows, still intact, and heard of the news that many windows had survived, and the organ maybe too. To hear these words spoken with awe and genuine interrogation is nothing short of a miracle – and it may be short lived. But as I listened, I realised that Notre-Dame had lived up to its destiny: it reminded a people of its past, and of the hope of new life we find at the foot of the cross.

France has tried very hard to push God away, and forget the faith of centuries. But when the people fell silent, the very stones cried out. The question is, now that we remember, what will we do with these memories for the future? There is a small window of opportunity for the nature of public discourse to change. For the derision and suspicion of faith to morph into respect and attentive listening. Yesterday, the French president embraced the rector of the cathedral. Church and state in a long forgotten embrace? It was a fleeting image, and yet a hint that new life, new ways of imagining our life together are always possible.

And for me, this is the real question of the rebuilding. What is it we are rebuilding? What kind of vision will animate the endless years of work ahead? Will we listen to the memory of stones, and honour the God whose cross triumphed over destruction, fire and ashes? Notre-Dame held memories we had forgotten; will we accept God’s gift of memory, and reshape some of the distorted, incomplete stories we tell ourselves, so that we can move into a better future? I hope and pray that we do; and I believe that we can, because I believe in the God of Good Friday and of Easter Sunday, who ultimately holds all memory, all past and future in his hand.Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Police/Fire, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology