Welcoming the election of Emmanuel Macron as president of France, the head of the French bishops’ conference has said he hoped elections next month to the National Assembly will not place the country “in an ungovernable situation”.
Elected last weekend with 66.1% of votes in the second-round presidential ballot, former economy minister and head of his own 200,000-member movement En Marche! (On the move), Macron is, at 39, France’s youngest head of state in over 200 years.
Although raised in a non-religious family, he was baptised as “a personal choice” at the age of 12 and was educated by Jesuits in Amiens. Since then he has by own account practiced his faith less, but is constantly reflecting on it, tending, in the words of French writer Samuel Pruvot, who has interviewed the president-elect at length, to view it “more intellectually than spiritually”.
After school Macron studied philosophy and worked as an editorial assistant to the prominent phenomenological philosopher Paul Ricoer before studying in Paris’ prestigious Ecole Nationale d’Administration and joining Rothschild & Cie Banque as an investment banker.
He subsequently worked as an economic adviser to President Francois Hollande, becoming economy minister in 2014, as which he deregulated some branches of industry and liberalised Sunday trading before resigning last August to pursue his presidential bid.
His victory against the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, head of France’s National Front, who took 33.9% of votes in the poll, was on a pro-market platform entailing support for the European Union and cuts to public administration, as well as lower corporation taxes and measures to defend secular values.
During the election, Marseilles’ Archbishop Georges Pontier said, French Catholics had been “divided like the rest of French society”, but he said he is counting on Macron and his new government “being able to function.”
“Macron has been elected in an important manner,” he said, continuing, “we must hope he succeeds for the good of our country, otherwise it will be catastrophic. Priorities for his new five-year term must include struggling against unemployment, which is so destructive for families, for prospects and for projects, as well as the necessity of staying in Europe – and giving this Europe the means of retaining the respect of every people.”