A demonstrator in Paris protests France's planned legalization of same-sex marriage.

CNS PHOTO | CHARLES PLATIAU, REUTERS

A demonstrator in Paris protests France's planned legalization of same-sex marriage.

January 21, 2013
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

PARIS – A French bishops' spokesman urged politicians to "listen to the streets" after hundreds of thousands of people rallied against same-sex marriage.

"We're facing questions about society – what the family is, what marriage is, and whether there's a difference between men and women," Msgr. Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops' conference, told France's Metro daily.

"I'm not one who says the street must decide, because this is always dangerous, and political responsibility rests with those elected," he said.

"But the street is expressing a great frustration today – those holding political responsibility can't expect to govern without listening to what it's saying."

The Jan. 13 demonstration was organized by a coalition of 30 family groups. Organizers said 800,000 people participated, although French police put the number at 340,000.

Podvin said the Catholic Church believed homosexuals "must be respected," but was against the same-sex bill, which was introduced in November by the government of President Francois Hollande under the slogan, Marriage for All.

In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, it would allow adoption by same-sex couples.

"In our eyes, there's nothing contradictory between fighting firmly against homophobia and saying no to a radical transformation of the family model," Podvin said.

At the conclusion of the demonstration, protesters in Paris' Champ de Mars called on Hollande to "hear and understand the people of France."

The bill had "deeply divided" the population and provoked opposition "from right and left and the unaffiliated," they said.

In a brief address to protesters in Place Denfert-Rochereau, the bishops' conference president, Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, said he had not participated because his "mode of communication" with the government was "not the demonstration, but direct dialogue."

However, he praised protesters for the "quality of their message."

"It must be understood that the defence of parentage, paternity and maternity over children isn't an act of aggression against homosexuals, but a recognition that a child born from a man and woman has a right to be raised by a man and woman," he said.

BRITISH PROTEST

In England and Wales, more than a thousand Catholic priests signed an open letter warning British politicians that a bill to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples would erode religious liberty.

The letter, published Jan. 12 in the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper, urged lawmakers "not to be afraid to reject this legislation" when it arrives in the House of Commons later in the month.

The signatories, who include eight bishops, suggest that the Equal Marriage Bill represents the gravest threat to the Catholic Church in England and Wales since the Reformation.

"Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship," said the letter.