Thousands of demonstrators march in Paris January 13 to protest France’s planned legalization of same-sex marriage (CNS photo)

A French bishops’ spokesman urged politicians to “listen to the streets” after hundreds of thousands of people rallied against same-sex marriage.

“We’re facing questions about society — what the family is, what marriage is, and whether there’s a difference between men and women,” Msgr. Bernard Podvin, spokesman for the French bishops’ conference, told France’s Metro daily. “I’m not one who says the street must decide, because this is always dangerous, and political responsibility rests with those elected. But the street is expressing a great frustration today —those holding political responsibility can’t expect to govern without listening to what it’s saying,” he said.

The January 13 demonstration was organized by a coalition of 30 family groups. Organizers said 800,000 people participated, although French police put the number at 340,000.

Msgr. Podvin said the Catholic Church believed homosexuals “must be respected,” but was against the same-sex bill, which was introduced in November by the government of President Francois Hollande under the slogan “Marriage for All.” In addition to legalizing same-sex marriage, the bill would allow adoption by same-sex couples.

“In our eyes, there’s nothing contradictory between fighting firmly against homophobia and saying no to a radical transformation of the family model,” Msgr. Podvin said.

At the conclusion of the demonstration, protesters in Paris’ Champ de Mars called on Hollande to “hear and understand the people of France,” adding that the bill had “deeply divided” the population and provoked opposition “from right and left and the unaffiliated.” They said the legislation “means inscribing in our law a fundamental discrimination: between those who will be born of a father and mother, and those who will be legally ‘born’ of two fathers or two mothers.”

France’s Le Figaro daily said several Catholic bishops — including Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon — joined the rally privately with diocesan groups.

In a brief address to protesters in Place Denfert-Rochereau, the bishops’ conference president, Paris Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, said he had not participated because his “mode of communication” with the government was “not demonstration, but direct ­dialogue.” However, he praised protesters for the “quality of their message” and for taking part “peacefully, without aggression, distrust or personal hatred.”

“It must be understood that the defense of parentage, paternity and maternity over children isn’t an act of aggression against homosexuals, but a recognition that a child born of a man and a woman has a right to be raised by a man and a woman,” he said.

Debate was scheduled to begin in France’s National Assembly on January 29.

About 500 people, mostly French citizens, also gathered in front of the French Embassy in Rome January 13 as a show of support for the Paris protesters. Along with pink, baby blue and white balloons, they also held signs, some of which said “Father + Mother = nothing better for a child.”

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