Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, head of the French bishops conference, discussed Church-State relations with President Emmanuel Macron during their first official discussion on 29 August, the same day that representatives of France's main faiths testified before parliamentarians on its planned revision for the country's bioethics law.
Moulins-Beaufort said he and Macron discussed issues such as the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral, differences about the reception of arriving migrants, revisions to the bioethics law and issues concerning Islam. French presidents usually receive religious leaders for an exchange of views at least once a year.
"We were able to express ourselves in detail," the archbishop said about the discussions over bioethics, without giving further details. “The president responded in kind. He took no position, but that was not the purpose of the discussion."
The National Assembly is due to debate this autumn a revised bioethics bill that would extend assisted procreation to lesbian couples and single women, liberalise rules for freezing human eggs and sperm, and ease some limits on research into stem cells.
Church leaders have criticised government plans to repair Notre Dame that treat the cathedral more as a tourist venue than a house of prayer, and frowned on plans to help finance mosque building if the necessary legal changes led to increased financial surveillance of all religions.
One result of the Notre Dame fire has been that the cathedral's regular activities, including the practice sessions of its famous choir, will move to Saint Germain l'Auxerrois, the parish church for the Louvre when it was still a royal palace.
The parish congregation -- including its Masses in Latin and Spanish -- will be moved to other Paris churches. Saint Sulpice will be used for large ceremonies and Saint Eustache for smaller formal events.
France's Grand Rabbi Haïm Korsia, Protestant Federation leader François Clavairoly and Rennes Archbishop Pierre d'Ornellas, the bishops conference spokesman for bioethics, testified before a parliamentary panel much more open to religious views than the commission that insulted faith leaders who testified against the 2013 law on same-sex marriage.
D'Ornellas took the clearest stand against liberalising assisted procreation, which now is reserved for married couples with procreation problems.
“When there is a dilemma between a woman’s desire to have a child and the dignity of the infant and its right to have a father and a mother, we must go first and foremost toward protecting the weakest,” the archbishop said. “That is the way to build a just and fraternal society.”
Korsia and Clavairoly were less firmly against the measure but also stressed their concern about conceiving children without fathers.