23 January 2014
Embattled Hollande visits Pope in Vatican
President François Hollande, who was to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican yesterday, said in advance he wanted to talk with the Pope about the war in Syria, peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the plight of Christians in the Middle East and defending the global environment, writes Tom Heneghan.
The Pope could be “useful” on several subjects, he said. Absent from his list were any of the issues challenging Mr Hollande in France, including several of concern to French Catholics. He sidestepped possible protocol snags by bringing neither Valérie Trierweiler, his companion until recently seen as the “First Lady” of France, nor his latest reported amour, actress Julie Gayet. Mr Hollande, a dedicated secularist, angered French bishops and many Catholics by rushing through a law on same-sex marriage last year after several huge street protests by mostly Catholic groups.
The socialist president announced this month that he planned a second controversial reform this year, the legalisation of assisted suicide. A group of Catholics drew up a petition asking Pope Francis to express “the growing concern of many French Catholics” to Mr Hollande when they meet. More than 100,000 people signed the petition.
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