The President of the French Republic and Pope Francis have spoken on the phone for the fourth time since Emmanuel Macron’s election in 2018. According to the Elysée Palace, it was an exchange initiated by the Holy Father.
What could they have been talking about on Sunday, March 21, 2021? According to information which leaked from the Elysée Palace, the President of the French Republic began by evoking the apostolic trip to Iraq. Speaking of it as a “real turning point in the region,” Emmanuel Macron assured the Pope that he did “not miss a crumb.”
The presidential communication also states that the two heads of state “shared their thoughts and concerns about the crises that are destabilizing many regions of the world,” specifically, the expansion of jihadism in Africa and the worrying situation in Lebanon.
More broadly, the two men discussed “the instability caused by countries that use religious diplomacy for political ends,” as well as the challenges of the “post-Covid-19” world.
The telephone conversation, which began around 5 p.m., lasted about 40 minutes. The Elysée Palace announced that it had been organized at the request of the sovereign pontiff: a way of returning the favor to the French head of state who had called his counterpart a year ago, when the first wave of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic confined Europe and part of the world.
The presidential entourage did not say whether they discussed such hot topics as the law on separatism, which is a worry to the Church in France, or the proposed revision of the bioethics law.
Elysée Palace issued a reminder, in well-chosen words, that the Argentinian Pope “has taken up the invitation” of Emmanuel Macron to go to France—one year before the presidential election. It is unlikely that the Holy See’s diplomatic service will commit itself to an apostolic visit to France at that time, as it could appear as support for an outgoing president in search of re-election.
This is especially the case since the Pope’s recent outburst against the rise of populism in France, during a private audience at the Vatican on March 15, seems to have undermined the sacrosanct reserve of the Holy See regarding the state of politics in the various states with which it maintains diplomatic relations.