• France's news in English

Hollande set for 'no holds barred' summit with Pope

AFP/The Local · 24 Jan 2014, 08:21

Published: 24 Jan 2014 08:21 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Abortion and euthanasia will be among hot button issues on the table Friday when Pope Francis meets embattled French President Francois Hollande, under pressure after revelations of an affair but hoping to woo back Catholic voters.

Francis has largely avoided public diatribes on Church doctrine but Vatican watchers say he is likely to press the Socialist leader on issues including changes to abortion legislation and a drive to legalise euthanasia.

"They will certainly not play hide-and-seek. There will be no holds barred," a high-ranking prelate told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The 59-year-old Hollande is plagued by low popularity and hopes to reconcile with a Catholic electorate largely hostile to his liberal policies.

He sees the visit as a chance to send "a strong message of dialogue and attention to the Catholics," an advisor said at a briefing ahead of the trip.

He may also be hoping some of the pontiff's popularity rubs off on him.

His quest will be made no easier by lawmakers' decision this week to greenlight a change in the country's abortion laws, effectively making it easier for a woman to terminate a pregnancy.

Anger among staunch Catholics has also been fuelled by plans for the legalisation of assisted suicide -- with French bishops speaking out this week to condemn a topic Hollande promised to support in his electoral campaign.

Relations between part of the electorate and the government soured notably last year when France legalised gay weddings, despite hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to hold huge protests.

Some 110,000 frustrated Catholics have signed a petition calling on the congenial Francis to get tough and raise their concerns with Hollande.

The 77-year-old pope was initially hailed by liberals as a possible ally, but while he has called for "mercy" toward gays, divorced people and women who have abortions, Vatican experts say Francis is a conservative at heart.

In January, he denounced abortions as a "frightful" symptom of today's "throw-away culture", and on Wednesday he tweeted his support for US Catholics taking part in the annual anti-abortion "March for Life" in Washington.

Hollande's advisors have said that while an understanding on abortion is out, the Socialist is interested in hearing the pope's stance on euthanasia.

The pontiff is a strong supporter of the traditional family, and the president's recently-revealed affair with a 41-year-old actress may be a topic both leaders wish to avoid.

"Hollande's trip has clearly come at a difficult time in his private life," the government advisor said.

Story continues below…

The president's official partner, Valerie Trierweiler - for whom he left fellow Socialist politician Segolene Royal, the mother of his four children - will not be present, the Elysee said.

Controversies aside, the leaders are likely to discuss their common desire for social justice and peace, particularly in conflict-torn parts of Africa, as well as the protection of Christian minorities in the Middle East.

They are expected to discuss the crisis in Syria, in particular the progress of peace talks begun Wednesday which and have been marred by heated disagreements between delegations from President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the exiled opposition.

Hollande has previously said that the pope, a "great moral authority", could help "find a political solution" to the country's devastating civil war.

They may also touch on shared goals to protect the environment, do away with food waste, promote social justice and reduce the gap between rich and poor.

AFP/The Local (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France’s 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

French cheer police, reviving Charlie spirit
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available