The new Archbishop of Paris, the highest position in French Catholicism, has been appointed, and as the outgoing archbishop used his final speech to voice strong opposition to equal marriage, his replacement holds similar views.

Earlier this week, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the outgoing Archbishop of Paris, used his final speech to suggest that the government’s plans to legalise equal marriage could be the final move towards inciting violence, and splitting society in France.

Vingt-Trois is stepping down as his three-year mandate had run out, and was replaced by Archbishop Georges Pontier, who shares his predecessor’s anti-equal marriage stance.

Formerly the Archbishop of Marseilles, Pontier, 70, wrote on his former diocese’s website that French Catholics should write to their MPs to voice opposition to measures to legalise equal marriage, currently going through in France.

French President Francois Hollande’s government gave its formal approval to the bill last November. Despite loud opposition, the bill is expected to pass in the Senate thanks to backing by Socialists and allies.

Last week, the French Senate approved the crucial first article of a bill granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Tensions were high as the French National Assemblee was gearing up for its second reading.

Catholicism is France’s most followed religion, and in 2009 64% of French people said they considered themselves Catholic. This figure had dropped from 87% in 1972.

The numbers who considered themselves practicing Catholics had dropped dramatically, however; as 4.5% said they practiced in 2009, compared with 20%, from 20 years previous.

Pontier, who became a bishop in 1988, has been hailed for advocating interfaith dialogue, particularly with Islam, which is France’s second-largest religion.

Last week a Catholic priest in Argentina was expelled from the church following an investigation after he voiced his support for equal marriage in the country.

The investigation into the priest, Jose Nicholas Alessio, was previously led by the new Pope, Francis, then known as Jorge Bergoglio, and then archbishop of Buenos Aires.