Catholics congregate in Paris for faith fiesta

27th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 26 (AFP) - At a time when religious vocations are plunging and people are free to take it, or more often than not leave it, the Roman Catholic Church here is in the midst of a week-long campaign to recover some of its lost influence in French society.

PARIS, Oct 26 (AFP) - At a time when religious vocations are plunging and people are free to take it, or more often than not leave it, the Roman Catholic Church here is in the midst of a week-long campaign to recover some of its lost influence in French society.

The church is seeking to turn the feasts of All Souls and All Saints this weekend into the centrepiece of a 10-day fiesta intended to be a dynamic call to faith.

Some 500 events have been planned, including conferences, concerts, exhibitions, debates and pilgrimages.

The idea of holding a "congress of evangelization" in a major city stems from the jubilee celebrations organised by the church in 2000, and responds to Pope John Paul II's call for "a new evangelization" by the church in the modern world.

The first such series of events was organized in Vienna last year, and similar festivala will be held in Lisbon in 2005, in Brussels in 2006 and in Budapest in 2007.

In Paris, the week's events have been largely influenced by the church's increasingly important charismatic movement, which is orthodox in terms of belief but ready to adopt unorthodox and sometimes startling methods to awaken faith.

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the archbishop of Paris, said the campaign is a response to the emptiness of modern city life, "seductive and fascinating" on the one hand, but marked by a "formidable impoverishment of human relations" on the other.

"The big city, so brilliant and noisy, is a place of loneliness, and an affective desert for many," he told the Catholic Daily La Croix, adding, "Our society does not know where it is going."

Lustiger said the church was mobilising "not only to break the loneliness of many and create more sociability amid the anonymity of the city, but also to share its treasures will all those whom it has often dealt with only at a distance."

The central point for the activities is a 17-metre (55-foot) wooden cross on the square in front of the freshly cleaned Notre Dame Cathedral.

The cathedral and the Sacre Coeur Basilica at Montmartre are remaining opening day and night throughout the 10 days of the festival. On Sunday, processions from every church in the capital will converge on Notre Dame.

Faced with the popularity of Halloween, a pagan import from America, the church has organised a special day for children on Saturday.

Lustiger said the events were intended to involve everyone, including non-Catholics and non-believers, and to show that the church was the friend of all.

According to the Catholic hierarchy in France, 77.5 percent of citizens are members of the church, but attendance at mass is falling and the number of ordained priests has declined from 31,500 to 23,500 in a decade, a fall only partly offset by an increase in the number of lay workers.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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