On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron goes to the Vatican for the first time to meet Pope Francois. He will discuss the issue of migrants and secularism.
French President Emmanuel Macron meets Pope Francis for the first time on Tuesday . This purely Vatican visit excludes any interview with the Italian populist government at loggerheads with Paris.
However , the issue of migrants, flagship of the Pope’s pontificate, should be at the heart of their meeting Tuesday morning at 10.30am local (8.30am GMT).
Before this tete-a-tete, Emmanuel Macron was having breakfast discreetly with the community of lay Catholics Sant’Egidio, very involved in the reception of migrants and organizer of “humanitarian corridors” conveying Syrian refugees in Europe.
This meeting with an organization very interwoven in the political spheres of Italy, could be an opportunity to pass messages to the new power, which declared war on NGOs positioning their boats off the coast of Libya.
The pope regularly calls on EU leaders to uphold founding ideals such as “solidarity”.
With regard to the wave of migrants arriving in Europe that must be “welcomed, accompanied, housed and integrated” within the limits of each country’s capabilities, the Pope also believes that “we must invest smartly to give them jobs and education “in their countries of origin, especially in Africa.
Although he has often criticized “the populism that thrives on selfishness,” François has so far refrained from commenting on the announcements of the new Italian government, which has been in power for three weeks.
Emmanuel Macron and François should not escape the theme of laïcité à la française.
In a long lyrical speech to the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) in early April, Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to “repair” the “link” between the Catholic Church and the French Republic, “damaged” especially since the adoption of marriage homosexual in 2013.
This speech by the President had sparked criticism from the Left and the National Rally (far right), in a country where respect for secularism is the subject of debates epidermal, often incomprehensible beyond the borders. The French episcopate, for its part, hailed a refounding speech on the relations between Catholics and the Republic.
An “agnostic” president
“In France, secularism has a color inherited from the Enlightenment much too strong, which builds a collective imagination in which religions are seen as a subculture,” lamented Pope Francis in a book of interviews with the French sociologist Dominique Wolton.
“France should say that religions are also part of the culture,” pleads the pope.
Baptized at 12 in the Catholic faith, former student of a Jesuit college where he met his wife Brigitte – his former teacher then married, and who will also be presented to the Pope Tuesday – Emmanuel Macron defines himself today as ” agnostic “.
From Eastern Christians to climate change, to development aid, there are many other potential topics for discussion.
Canon of Honor
Mr. Macron should take advantage of his audience at the Holy See to invite the pope to France, especially in the multicultural city of Marseille, who would have his favors. But if a trip is today “envisaged” according to the president of the CEF Georges Pontier, France does not seem to be part of the priorities of the Argentine pope.
The French president also comes to Rome to seek his title of “first and only honorary canon” of the cathedral of the pope, a tradition dating back to the 17th century and King Henry IV.
Nicolas Sarkozy was the last head of state, in December 2007, to bend to this honorary tradition in the immense major basilica of Saint-Jean-de-Latran, assigned to the bishop of Rome (the pope). Arousing an uproar, left, for his speech praising the faith and the Christian roots of France.
President Macron should cautiously abstain Tuesday afternoon from any speech on the ground undermined by secularism.
He will attend a liturgical celebration, including a prayer and reading a biblical text, before taking possession of his (virtual) stall in a chapel. He will then meet the French Catholic community gathered in the adjoining palace of the Lateran, before a “reserved time”, at the precise time of the France-Denmark football match, and a press conference at the French Embassy in the Holy See.