Paris. French Catholics marked the Assumption holiday on Wednesday with prayers focused on the family and children that were designed to underline the Church’s opposition to gay marriage.
A prayer read out at mass in churches across France included a passage expressing the wish that children and young people “cease to be the objects of the desires and conflicts of adults in order to fully benefit from the love of a father and mother.”
The text was produced by the Bishops of France, who are leading opposition to President Francois Hollande’s commitment to legalise gay marriage and make it possible for homosexual couples to adopt children.
Hollande, elected in May, has promised to introduce the reforms by next year.
The prayer, which has been attacked by gay rights groups, was read first at midnight mass at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, attended by nearly 5,000 worshippers ahead of the traditional candle-lit Assumption procession on the Seine river.
It was also read out to some 20,000 pilgrims at Lourdes in southwestern France.
Bernard Housset, the Bishop of La Rochelle who presided over the 139th national pilgrimage to Lourdes, told reporters before the mass that the church would continue its campaign against the proposed legislation.
“You cannot confuse the marriage of a man and a woman with the union of two homosexuals,” he said.
Opinion polls suggest the church’s stance is out of sync with the views of most French people, two thirds of whom back gay marriage.
A narrower majority (53 percent) is in favour of same-sex couples having the right to adopt, according to a poll published on Wednesday by digital magazine La Lettre de l’Opinion.
The vast majority of the French are of Catholic heritage although only around five percent of the population attend church regularly.