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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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France nominates reputed ‘gay’ ambassador to Holy See, but months later Pope Francis has yet to approve him

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

Editorial Note: due to further investigations by LifeSite, on April 13 several adjustments have been made to this report.

PARIS, April 10, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Will France’s new ambassador to the Holy See be a self-proclaimed homosexual?

On January 5, the French government proposed to send Laurent Stefanini, a 55 year-old diplomat and head of protocol for the French president, as the new incumbent of the Villa Bonaparte. But time is marching on, the previous ambassador took his official leave on March 1 and has returned to Paris, and the Vatican has yet to approve Stefanini’s nomination. Media rumor has it that Pope Francis and a number of cardinals are signifying their opposition through the Holy See’s ongoing silence.

While Laurent Stefanini is not a gay lobbyist, and if he is homosexual he has been discreet about that fact. Choosing him to represent France at the Holy See was considered by many to be a “provocation.” Even Manuel Valls, France’s socialist Prime Minister who recently said that the French Republic had been built “against religion” told President François Hollande that choosing Stefanini was going a bit too far.

Ludovine de La Rochère, president of the “Manif pour tous” that put over a million French demonstrators on the streets in 2013 to protest against the legalization of same-sex “marriage,” was said by several media sources to have called the papal nuncio in France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, to warn him that her movement was opposed to Stefanini’s nomination. She has formally denied this allegation.

The post of ambassador to the Holy See is a coveted one and is ideally devolved to a person who has some affinity with the Catholic faith and hierarchy. According to some media sources, Laurent Stefanini is a practicing Catholic; the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs calls him “passionate” about Christianity and he already has some experience with official relations with Rome. He was first counselor at the French embassy to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005 and went on to counsel the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs on religious matters in Paris.

But symbolically, choosing a notoriously "gay" man for such a noticeable post would challenge Catholic morals, and therefore the Catholic faith many would argue. Stefanini has not reacted publicly on this point or any other.

Were the French authorities trying to capitalize on Pope Francis’ statement on homosexuals, “Who am I to judge?” His openness to the “peripheries” of the Church must have played a role, say the French media.

Besides, the archbishop of Paris, cardinal André Vingt-Trois, is said to have supported the principle of Laurent Stefanini’s nomination in a letter that he personally presented to Pope Francis on February 11, at the cardinal’s consistory in Rome.

The cardinal’s press service said it was unable either to confirm or rule out this allegation when contacted by LifeSiteNews. An official at the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs did confirm this point, however. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is said also to have backed Stefanini’s nomination.

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The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told LifeSiteNews that Stefanini is one of the most apt diplomats of his generation for the post of ambassador to the Holy See, given his previous experience and interest in Christianity. He went on to say that the long wait for the Holy See’s approval is not an uncommon procedure and that it was no clear indicator of Stefanini’s rejection by the Vatican’s authorities.

At the same time, the Journal du dimanche’s website published a report indicating that Pope Francis has personally opposed Stefanini’s nomination and has told several cardinals that he would not give in. But there has been no official rejection of France’s candidate for the Villa Bonaparte: the Holy See’s silence is being interpreted as a sufficiently clear hint. A number of gay media have already voiced their anger, calling the supposed decision “homophobic.”

Should the rebuttal of Stefanini as French ambassador be confirmed, President François Hollande will probably take it as a snub and tension will rise between France and the Vatican. Stefanini was perhaps selected in part for his “sexual orientation,” but also because of his discretion and his fine knowledge of the Curia; also he specializes in environmental issues. He was French “ambassador for the Environment” from 2007 to 2010, a post in which he acted as France’s negotiator and spokesman in major international discussions at the United Nations and elsewhere. Hollande is said to have supported his nomination to Rome in view of Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on ecology, hoping to obtain the Pontiff’s backing for the Paris climate summit that is to convene this fall.

If Stefanini is indeed barred from becoming France’s next ambassador to the Holy See, the move will not be without precedent. In 2007, Pope Benedict refused to approve the nomination of a French ambassador who was reputed to be openly living in a civil union with another man. The Villa Bonaparte remained unoccupied for two years.

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