France will not withdraw a gay candidate as its next Vatican ambassador despite a long silence from the Holy See that seems to indicate official rejection, President François Hollande’s office revealed last week after days of speculation.
Paris proposed veteran diplomat Laurent Stefanini, a practising Catholic, in early January. He was the well-respected number two envoy at the French embassy to the Holy See in 2001-2005 and returned home to become the foreign ministry’s adviser on religious affairs and now head of protocol at the Élysée Palace. Unlike an earlier gay French candidate whom Paris withdrew in 2008 after the Vatican signalled its disapproval, Stefanini, 54, is not in a civil union and has always been discreet about his homosexuality.
His CV includes a stint as adviser to the Environment Ministry on international negotiations, a key qualification as Paris prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference in December and counts on Pope Francis for support. An Élysée official said he is “one of our best diplomats, which is why we’re proposing him.”
According to the Catholic daily La Croix, Stefanini enjoys support from France’s top Curia cardinal, Jean-Louis Tauran, and Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, has spoken up for him at the Vatican. The French Church has kept a diplomatic silence in public about the issue.