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France and Vatican


Publication of the encyclical “Laudato Si” on the environment – Statement by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and President of COP21 (June 18, 2015)

Its title, taken from the writings of Saint Francis of Assisi, and its status – it is the highest-value document the Sovereign Pontiff can produce – testify to the importance the Pope attaches to protecting the environment.

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Bilateral relations

France is a favored contact for the Holy See:

1 - Bilateral relations have traditionally been confident and constructive in nature. They are marked by a broad convergence of views regarding peace, justice, and human rights. The Holy See recognizes our country’s important role in the international community. Our positions on international issues are often very close, as is the case on Middle East issues (Lebanon, Palestine and Gaza, the situation of Christian minorities).

Our positions also converge on development issues, particularly in Africa, and some global issues like climate change.

2 - The concept of “positive secularism” expressed in Rome in December 2007 by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic at the time, was received very positively by Rome. The Pope was very attentive to the presidential proposal of a secularism “that does not consider religion as a threat but as an asset” and allows its full participation in social debates.

The organization in Paris, at the Pope’s initiative, in March 2011, of a dialogue with non-believers in the “Parvis des Gentils” [Court of the Gentiles] highlights our country’s test role, perceived as particularly secular, as part of the new evangelization of Western Europe that Benedict XVI wants to launch.

3 - This forum’s work for dialogue uniting the government, the Church of France, and the Holy See, fulfills an objective need and an expectation of the Catholic Church, which thought it was not sufficiently consulted by government on social issues or technical issues affecting it, and complained about the government’s indifference to it. The body’s most recent meeting (January 2012) took place in Paris and provided for discussing the issue of Eastern Christians, among other things. The Vatican would like to see this forum for dialogue result in substantial cooperation supported by positive secularism (beyond resolving administrative issues or societal discussions).

4 - High-level visits between France and the Vatican have been revived since 2007: the bilateral relationship, which had slackened, benefited from the positive impact of then President of the Republic Nicolas Sarkozy’s official visit on December 20th, 2007, which particularly highlighted the Holy See’s international role and stressed the role of religion in French society. On this occasion, the Head of State took formal possession of the stall of “first and only honorary canon” of the chapter of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The following year, Benedict XVI’s trip to France in September 2008 was a genuine popular success. The former President the Republic’s second visit to the Holy See, on October 9th, 2010, marked an intensification in high-level bilateral dialogue. It was essentially devoted to the situation of Eastern Christians and priorities for the French presidency of the G8/G20. Mr. François Fillon, then Prime Minister went to the Holy See in October 2009 to attend the canonization of Jeanne Jugan, foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor. On this occasion, he was received in audience by the Pope and met with Cardinal Bertone. On May 1st, 2011 François Fillon made a new trip to the Vatican on the occasion of the beatification of John Paul II. As well as parliamentary visits (friendship groups), MFA civil servant missions provide for maintaining regular dialogue with the Curia on matters of common interest or related to global issues such as the environment and development.

5- The treatment by the Holy See of the great figures of French Catholicism demonstrates the interest Vatican authorities have with regard to our country: proclamation of St. Therese of Lisieux as 33rd Doctor of the Church (1997), canonization of Blessed Theodora Guérin (2006) and Marie-Eugénie of Jesus (2007), beatification of Charles de Foucauld (2005), and then Louis and Zelie Martin (2008), canonization of Jeanne Jugan (2009). The forthcoming beatification of French priest Pierre-Adrien Toulorge (1757-1793) should take place in Coutances (Manche) in autumn 2011. It will aim to recall the exemplary value, for the Holy See, of those who, out of loyalty to their faith, opposed regimes oppressive of religion. Several other cases involving French people are currently being examined: Robert Schuman, Marthe Robin (founder of the Foyers de Charité [Charity Hostels]), Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange (founder of the Bible School in Jerusalem), Father Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus (founder of Notre-Dame-de-Vie), Professor Jerome Lejeune.

6 - The procedure for appointing bishops in France falls under the diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See. This procedure has been applied to the satisfaction of both parties. Under the terms of the Gasparri Memorandum dated May 20th, 1921, France has a right to object, for political reasons (this case has only come up twice during the postwar period, in 1952 and 1968), to the appointment of bishops by the Pope (“Old France” and overseas departments, with the exception of those of Strasbourg and Metz that fall within concordat proceedings). In overseas communities where the 1905 law is not in force, French authorities are informed by the Holy See of the appointment without being consulted.

Updated on 23.02.12

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