French bishops are not expected to direct worshippers on how to vote in the French presidential elections as more and more Roman Catholics have become supporters of populist challenger Marine Le Pen.
French Roman Catholic bishops have a long history of advising their worshippers on how to vote in elections but, for the 2022 French presidential election, they are expected to remain silent.
In 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of presidential hopeful leader Marine Le Pen, challenged Jacques Chirac in the second round of that year;s presidential election, bishops were public in their opposition to him — but La Croix editor-in-chief Isabelle de Gaulmyn says bishops are now silent as a growing number of Catholics support his daughter.
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“What has changed? Probably first of all the Catholics themselves. Like the rest of society, many of them vote for far-right parties. This is new. Moreover, still like society, they are divided and the bishops fear to break this fragile unity a little more,” Ms de Gaulmyn wrote in an opinion editorial.
According to the newspaper Le Figaro, the French Catholic vote has migrated toward the right and in the first round of the presidential vote 40 per cent of Catholics voted for Ms Le Pen, conservative writer and pundit Eric Zemmour, or right-wing candidate Nicholas Dupont-Aignan.
In contrast, President Emmanuel Macron scored 29 per cent of the Catholic vote.
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Catholic voting has moved to the right even since the last French presidential election in 2017, when just 28 per cent of Catholics voted for populist conservative candidates.
Catholics voting for leftist candidates has remained largely stagnant, however, going from 20 per cent of the vote in 2017 to 21 per cent in the first round of the presidential elections this year.
The French centre-right has seen the largest loss in support from the Catholic voting community, going from 28 per cent in 2017 when Francois Fillon ran on behalf of the Republicans to just seven per cent for this year’s candidate, Valérie Pécresse.
The shifting of the Catholic vote in France comes after years of near-constant attacks on French churches during the presidency of Emmanuel Macron, with one 2019 report claiming an average of three churches were being attacked per day.
Earlier this month, a man was arrested in Toulouse after planting an explosive device inside the Saint-Etienne cathedral and assaulting a sacristan who attempted to detain him.
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