PARIS, France, May 30, 2011 ( – The historic 13th century cathedral of Paris, Notre-Dame de Paris, filled up completely last Thursday evening from 8:30 onward in answer to the call of Cardinal André Vingt-Trois to a Vigil for Life. It was the second initiative of its kind by Paris’ archbishop: a similar event took place last year on the 27th of May and attracted many faithful.

This year the vigil was placed under the patronage of Blessed John Paul the Second and was highlighted by readings from Evangelium vitae. Readings from the Gospel, personal experiences proclaimed by lay-people and modern hymns made up the first part of the vigil. This was followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during which the cardinal pleaded for life on his knees in front of the main altar, facing the monstrance. He prayed for those who had let themselves be driven into acts of death: “Do not remember our sins, but the faith of your Church.”

Cardinal Vingt-Trois reminded the faithful that when life is scorned, God is scorned also.


Among the lay-people who bore witness to life was Jean-Guilhem Xerri, president of the association “Aux captifs la liberation” (“For captives, freedom”) which works with homeless people living in the streets of the larger French cities.

A newly-wedded couple presented their experience of giving life together with their one year-old child, Pierre, startling the “audience” with their banal and lengthy accounts of personal conflict, dirty socks and reconciliation in order to proclaim the grandeur of God and to adapt to the new situation of being parents. The couple was chosen to speak although the young man only proposed marriage one year after they had been living together: in marriage, they said, they found a “new meaning” in their sacramental union, and a way to downplay conflict.

This choice of the couple was seen by some observers to be a pastoral choice of the Catholic Church in France which recently opened a “family blog” presenting all the “new” types of living together and parenting.

All eight bishops of the Parisian region, Ile-de-France, were present in the cathedral. Mgr Nicolas Brouwet, auxiliary bishop of Nanterre, who spoke out recently against the “Contraception Pass” which is being distributed to 10th-graders in Ile-de-France by the Regional council, opened the vigil with these words :

“Our society is anxious to protect human rights, but it is capable of great violence against the unborn, persons at the end of their life and the handicapped. The Gospel of life wants to change our lives, and our whole community.”

He pleaded the cause of love, fidelity, and chastity – a word rarely used in current homilies in France.

During the event there was little mention of abortion, euthanasia and other typical “culture of death” themes.

The fact that the cardinal of Paris is organizing these vigils is nevertheless regarded as a hopeful sign by the more active pro-lifers in the French Catholic Church, who have been dismissed for many years as extremists.