Pope Francis met with Laurent Stefanini, the openly gay foreign service officer chosen by France to be ambassador to the Vatican, for fifteen minutes this weekend.
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It is very unusual for a pope to get personally involved with the confirmation of an ambassador to the Vatican, but this weekend, Pope Francis met in private with Laurent Stefanini, the gay diplomat appointed by France to be its representative to the Vatican.
The French weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchâiné reported yesterday that during the meeting, Pope Francis informed Msr. Stefanini personally that he could not accept his appointment to the Vatican. The pope is said to have told Msr. Stefanini that France’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013 was part of the reason he could not allow him into the Vatican’s diplomatic community. Reuters translated this concern to mean the pope fears Ambassador Stefanini could decide to marry while serving at the Vatican.
The Vatican was notified last January that Laurent Stefanini, (photo right) had been appointed to be France's ambassador to the Holy See, but the Curia in Rome refused to act on the nomination - effectively a "pocket veto" of the appointment. Pope Francis himself was reported to have personally rejected the posting, telling members of the Curia that he "would not yield". The Vatican used this method in 2007, to reject a previously nominated gay ambassador from France. In that case, the French government withdrew the nomination after receiving no response, but this time around the French refused to back down.
A government spokesman, Stephane LeFoll, told France24:
"France has chosen its ambassador to the Vatican. This choice was Stefanini and that remains the French proposal. ...We are awaiting the response from the Vatican."
It was only after France continued to publicly press the appointment that Pope Francis agreed to meet with Msr. Stefanini.
Ambassador Stefanini has made no statement and the Vatican has declined to comment on the meeting, saying only that an ambassador is confirmed when his name is published in the official bulletin of the Holy See. The French government confirmed the papal audience took place, but is taking the position the meeting changed nothing. A spokesman said the Vatican still has not informed them Ambassador Stefanini has been officially rejected.
"Nothing has changed: France has proposed a candidate and for the time being we are waiting for the Vatican's reply after the usual discussions and review of his candidacy."
The French government appears to be determined; if Pope Francis rejects the French ambassador because he is gay, he is going to have to own his bias in front of the world.
Pope Francis photo via Facebook
Ambassador Stenanini's photo via Twitter