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French President Hollande speaks with Pope on religious freedom, Syria, marriage

Catholic World News - January 24, 2014

French President Francois Hollande met with Pope Francis on January 24, for a talk that centered on religious freedom, but avoided questions about the French leader’s private life.

Hollande—who has been facing a decline in popularity as well as questions about his relationship with a young actress—has been at odds with the Church over several issues, most notably his determined campaign for approval of same-sex marriage and a bid to legalize euthanasia. More than 100,000 French Catholics signed an open letter to Pope Francis in advance of the meeting, voicing their “deep unease” with Hollande’s administration. But the Vatican passed lightly over those issues, at least in a public account of the meeting. A brief statement released after the meeting said that the Pope had spoken with Holland about issues “such as the family, bioethics, respect for religious communities and the protection of places of worship.”

The Vatican statement indicated that religious freedom was a key issue in the day’s discussions, and in his own remarks after the meeting, Hollande confirmed that he had told the Pope his country “defends religious freedom everywhere.” He said that France is “the homeland of human rights and freedom of conscience.”

The French leader revealed that he had asked the Pope to receive a delegation from the Syrian rebel coalition. France has supported the rebels, while the Vatican has called for a negotiated end to the fighting, insisting that a military solution is impossible.

Police in Rome reported a bomb threat in St. Peter’s Square early in the morning before Hollande’s visit. After a thorough check, officials concluded that the call was a false alarm. However police were investigating the possibility that the threat was related to a bomb that did explode in the center of Rome early in the day, causing some property damage but no human casualties.

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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jan. 25, 2014 10:04 AM ET USA

    Then there are Socialist François' "personal matters": 4 children by a first woman he never bothered to marry but then abandoned, followed by his installation in the Élysée Palace of a second woman, also his mistress, whom he then proceeded to embarrass recently by an affair with yet a third woman, an actress! And there are rumors of even more such hanky-panky still undiscovered. Shades of Louis XV! No wonder Pope Francis looks bemused in several photos taken during Hollande's visit.

  • Posted by: Defender - Jan. 24, 2014 12:54 PM ET USA

    What nerve Hollande has! "France is the homeland of human rights..." as long as it has to do with abortion and SSM, etc. And then to ask the pope to meet with Syrian rebels (all Muslim and most are extremists)? No wonder so many French wrote the pope beforehand.

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