65,630,692 (July 2012 est.), note: the above figure is for metropolitan France and five overseas regions; the metropolitan France population is 62,814,233
GDP PER CAPITA
$35,600 (2011 est.)
Roman Catholic 83%-88%, Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 5%-10%, unaffiliated 4% overseas departments: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan
French religious policy is based on the concept of laïcité, a strict separation of church and state under which public life is considered completely secular. France was historically regarded as the “eldest daughter” of the Roman Catholic Church. The French Revolution (1789) saw a radical shift in the status of the Church with the launch of a brutal de-Christianization campaign. After the back and forth of Catholic royal and secular republican governments over the 19th century, laïcité was established under the Third Republic and codified with the 1905 Law on the Separation of Church and State. The constitution of the Fifth Republic (1958) guarantees freedom of religion. Today, most French citizens still identify as Catholics, although church attendance is very low. Through immigration, mainly from North Africa, Muslims now comprise about 10% of the French population. French Muslims have faced problems balancing their religious obligations with laïcité; a 2004 law on conspicuous religious symbols prohibits students and teachers from wearing Muslim headscarves in public schools.
September 12, 2008
The transmission of the culture of antiquity through monks, professors and copyists, the formation of hearts and spirits in love of the poor, the assistance given to the most deprived by the foundation of numerous religious congregations, the contribution of Christians to the establishment of the institutions of Gaul, and later France, all of this is too well known for me to dwell on it. The thousands of chapels, churches, abbeys and cathedrals that grace the heart of your towns or the...
December 17, 2003
France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race, or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organized on a decentralized basis.
I share the feeling of incomprehension, of disarray and sometimes even of revolt by those young French people -- immigrants by origin -- whose job applications go into the garbage because of the sound of their names, and who are too often faced with discrimination when they want to find housing or even get into a place of recreation. [...] All the children of France, whatever their background, whatever their origin, whatever their belief, are daughters and sons of the republic.
February 4, 2004
Today, all the great religions in the history of France have adapted themselves to that principle [of secularism]. For the most recently arrived, I'm speaking here of Islam, secularism is a chance, the chance to be a religion of France.
February 3, 2004
Certain religious signs, among them the Islamic veil, are multiplying in our schools. They are taking on a political meaning. Some want to know how far they can go. We are giving them a response today [by banning the veil].
December 20, 2007
I think this situation [of underestimating the importance of spiritual aspirations] is damaging for our country. Certainly, those who do not believe must be protected from every form of intolerance and proselytism. But a person who believes is a person who hopes, and its in the interests of the Republic that there be many women and men who nourish hope. The progressive decline of the rural parishes, the spiritual deserts of the urban peripheries, the disappearance of patronages and the...
December 31, 2003
You shouldn't see in it a humiliation for anyone. You shouldn't see in it a lack of respect for your religion. You must understand that secularism is our tradition, our choice. [...] I thank the grand imam of Al Azhar for indicating that in a secular and non-Muslim state, it is the duty of everyone to respect the law. [...] There are no rights without duties, and if the Muslims of France have the same rights as other believers, they have the same duties.
March 3, 2011
Christianity left us a magnificent heritage of civilization. I am the president of a secular Republic, but I can say that because it is the truth, I am not engaging in proselytism [...] We are compelled by this heritage. We must not only transmit it, but also assume it without complexes.