Three questions to Jacques Gaillot
You are coming back from Lourdes where you have been invited by the bishops of France to take part to the meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. What are your impressions?  
pélerins In the first row of the crowd in Lourdes are the sick and the handicapped. It is not like in Paris with all these VIPs and politicians, in Lourdes there were ordinary people. Many pilgrims came from Italy, Spain, Poland…. The crowd in Lourdes gave a wonderful greeting to the Pope, whatever was the weather, sun shining or rain, whatever was the time to wait or were the hymns in Latin, the crowd was there, often having to stand up, expressing their joy and their faith. I could not stop looking at this vast crowd.
On a large stage (rostrum) next to the papal altar, I was surrounded by African bishops from Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina. The liturgy was sober and classic. The Pope’s sermon was a profound meditation on the cross. However the life of today is not there.  
With the French bishops, Benedict the XVI has been equal to himself and faithful to his doctrine. The words of his speech were fraternal. However without any opening towards the future, no initiative that can give some hope.
messe à Lourdes
The separation of the Church and of any religion from the State is a sensitive point in France. There is a polemic about the way the Pope and the French president had spoken about this separation. What does a churchman like you think about it?  
There is not a positive or a negative separation of the Church and the State, just a principle of separation. For one hundred years there have always been dialogues and negotiations between the State and the Catholic Church, it is impossible for them to ignore each other. That does not mean neutrality; the Church has a social dimension.  
What is maybe more apparent today than in the past is a multicultural and multi denominational French society. Islam has become the second religious denomination in France with about 5 millions of Moslems. The principle of separation provides an equal treatment between each religion. There is not one that is dominant with privileges. The recognition of the values of the separation will need time to prevail and certainly will be a source of conflicts. It is a challenge for all of us.
société pluriculturlle
The French opinion has been chocked by the death of 10 of their soldiers killed in Afghanistan. President Sarkozy wants to send more troops over there to fight more successfully against terrorism. Is it the solution?  
The victory of the international military coalition in Afghanistan seems impossible. The occupying troops are facing a dilemma. I am hearing the same speeches than during the Algerian war in the past: “we are there for a just cause, we have to defend the values of liberty and democracy…”  
occupation The Afghan people don’t appreciate an occupying army and neither the Westerners. They still live in an extreme poverty and they are abandoned to the corruption.
The numerous military collateral damages are killing a lot of civilians.
The Taliban kicked out of power in 2001 by the Westerners, are still present in the country. They know that they hurt the opinion of the West when they kill some of their soldiers. For the 10 French soldiers killed, President Sarkozy came in person to Afghanistan, this was for the Taliban a great success of publicity.
How to get out of this mess? Certainly not by military force, an issue will be found only through a political negotiation.