Faced with criticism from the left, who believes that he should not attend, in the name of secularism, the giant religious service that Pope Francis will give in Marseille on September 23, Emmanuel Macron assumes. “I consider it my place to go. I will not go as a Catholic, I will go as President of the Republic which is in fact secular,” he said on Friday September 15 during a trip to Semur-en-Auxois, in Côte-d 'Gold. “I myself will not have religious practice during this mass,” he added.
Emmanuel Macron recalled that the Pope had the rank of head of state and that his presence did not call into question the neutrality of the State. “The state is neutral. Public services are neutral and we preserve the school too and we recalled this at the start of the school year,” he added, in an allusion to the ban in schools on the abaya, a loose dress that wear Muslim women.
As of Wednesday, the possibility of him attending this mass, the highlight of Pope Francis' visit to Marseille on September 22 and 23, had sparked indignant criticism from La France insoumise. “I respect the faith and the faithful. But I disagree with the fact that an elected official and in particular the President of the Republic participates in his capacity in a religious ceremony,” MP Alexis Corbière said on X (ex-Twitter).
“It is not necessarily the place of the President of the Republic to attend a mass” in a “secular republic”, reacted Thursday the leader of the communists Fabien Roussel.
The presence at a papal mass is a first for a French head of state since that celebrated in 1980 by John Paul II on the square in front of Notre-Dame in the presence of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
In June 2017, shortly after his first election, Emmanuel Macron participated in the annual iftar (fast-breaking dinner) of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM), the representative body of France's second religion.