In a closely monitored meeting on June 26, Pope Francis met for the first time with French President Emmanuel Macron.
In what is believed to be one of Francis’s longest private meetings with a head of state to date, lasting nearly one hour, the meeting comes at a moment in which Macron has emerged a leading player on the global stage and a potentially critical interlocutor with the Vatican for European relations.
“Attention then turned to global issues of shared interest, such as the protection of the environment, migration, and multilateral commitment to conflict prevention and resolution, especially in relation to disarmament,” said the statement.
Macron’s visit comes at a time when he is at odds with the new populist government of Italy over migration policy – resulting in his decision to forgo a meeting with any government officials during his time in Rome.
More recently he has condemned the “leprosy” of populism within the European Union.
The Vatican communiqué also noted that the French president and the Pope discussed global conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, along with “a joint reflection on the prospects of the European project.” Before leaving his meeting with Francis, Macron gave the pontiff the typical French bisous, a kiss on both cheeks. He was also made the “First and Only Honorary Canon” of the Rome Basilica of St John’s in Lateran, which is the Pope’s cathedral in his capacity as Bishop of Rome.
A Vatican statement said the two discussed “protection of the environment, migration, and multilateral commitment to conflict prevention and resolution, especially in relation to disarmament.” It was also revealed that the pair discussed the prospects for resolving conflicts in the Middle East and Africa as well as the future of Europe. Government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux told RTL later that day that the title of “First and Only Honorary Canon” was “totally secular,” as he denounced the “unnecessary controversy.”
Addressing a crowd of Catholics in Rome hours after the ceremony, Mr Macron said that French secularism, or laïcité, was “not a fight against religion.” At 39-years-old, he is one of the youngest to assume the position of the French head of state after Napoleon. He once worked as a banker and has promised to unite people from various backgrounds. One of his main promises during his election days was that he would spearhead a “democratic revolution” by opposing the French “vacuous” political system. “No Religion Is a Problem in France” Says French President Emmanuel Macron TWEET THIS Emmanuel Macron said “No religion is a problem in France.”