French presidential frontrunner Francois Fillon said Friday he would continue to stress his Christian faith during campaigning despite criticism from opponents about the use of his religion.
Fillon clinched the nomination for the rightwing Republicans party in November making clear his Catholic devotion, an anomaly in secular France that has strict rules on separating religion from public life.
The former prime minister invited new scrutiny after stressing earlier in the week during a TV interview that he was guided by the teachings of war-time leader Charles de Gaulle and his Christian faith.
“I am who I am, I’m open,” Fillon told French channel BFMTV on Friday from Las Vegas where he is visiting a technology show. “You have to be sincere and it’s this sincerity which will be the mark of my political message,” he added.
A rival in the Republicans party, Henri Guaino, who is also hoping to run in this April’s election, said he had been “profoundly shocked” by Fillon’s words.
“It’s a mistake and mistakes have consequences,” he said on Thursday, saying Fillon was treating Christians in France as a political constituency.
“The president of the Republic is the man who represents the nation. When you forget that, it doesn’t work anymore,” he said.