A Toast to Monsieur Macron


Convivium, 11 May 2018

Ending a week that saw the launch of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute and hosting of the National Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa, Father Raymond de Souza notes the French president seems a better friend of faith in common life than Canada’s own prime minister.

Could it be that the president of secular France is more open than the prime minister of Canada to the contribution of faith to our common life?

It was a full week in Ottawa for the faith in our common life. On Tuesday the National Prayer Breakfast brought together the usual large crowd, including the Prime Minister and leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. They heard Dr. Os Guinness argue that societies that do not have room for faith will lose their capacity for freedom.

Later that day, our colleague the Father Deacon Andrew Bennett presided over the launch of our new Cardus Religious Freedom Institute (CRFI) and the first meeting of its advisory council. 
On Wednesday, Fr. Dcn. Andrew gave the inaugural lecture of the CRFI, followed by a discussion with some of Canada’s leading experts in religious freedom, including Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham, who has literally written the book on such matters. Also present was Cardus friend Don Hutchinson, who also has written a book on the state of religious liberty in Canada. Just in its first days, the CRFI has proved itself to be – at the very least – a centre where the leading experts on religious freedom in Canada will convene.

On Thursday the annual March for Life – the largest annual demonstration in Ottawa – took to the streets, the first march under the government of Ontario’s new law that limits free speech on abortion. 

This confluence of events and the presence of the prime minister at the prayer breakfast got me thinking about an important intervention about faith in common life earlier this year. The prime minister faithfully attends the prayer breakfast each year – a far better record than his predecessor, Stephen Harper – even though the majority of those gathered are not friendly to his policies on religious freedom, especially this year in light of the summer jobs fiasco. He deserves credit for that.

Last month, Justin Trudeau became the first Canadian prime minister to address the French National Assembly, celebrating Canada and France’s historic friendship and the shared priorities of both national governments to promote gender equality, environmental protection, and “progressive trade.” 

Perhaps while in France, Trudeau had occasion to talk with French President Emmanuel Macron about the place of faith in our common life.

Macron gave a landmark address in April to over 400 French Catholic leaders. Macron and Trudeau are friends with similar priorities and styles, but in Macron’s speech the French president shows himself to have a far better understanding of how citizens’ religious and metaphysical beliefs impact their contributions to society.

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