France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The European part of France, called Metropolitan France, extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean; France covers 640,679 square kilometres (247,368 sq mi) and has a population of 66.6 million. It is a unitary semi-presidential republic. The capital of France is Paris, the country's largest city and the main cultural and commercial center. The Constitution of France establishes the state as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people. Language: According to Article 2 of the Constitution, the official language of France is French. Religion: France is a secular country, and freedom of religion is a constitutional right. French religious policy is based on the concept of laïcité, a strict separation of church and state under which public life is kept completely secular. Catholicism has been the predominant religion in France for more than a millennium, though it is not as actively practised today as it was. Among the 47,000 religious buildings in France, 94% are Roman Catholic. According to a poll in January 2007, only 5% of the French population attended church regularly (10% attend church services regularly among the respondents who did identify themselves as Catholics). The poll showed 51% identified as being Catholics, 31% identified as being agnostics or atheists (another poll sets the proportion of atheists equal to 27%), 10% identified as being from other religions or being without opinion, 4% identified as Muslim, 3% identified as Protestant, 1% identified as Buddhist, 1% identified as Jewish. Meanwhile, an independent estimate by the politologist Pierre Bréchon in 2009 concluded that the proportion of Catholics had fallen to 42% while the number of atheists and agnostics had risen to 50%.
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