ROME, June 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – French President Emmanuel Macron has been named a Canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran under the auspices of Pope Francis.
Although Macron was baptized at age twelve, he now considers himself agnostic. Many of his views are strictly secular, including his support for abortion, so the offer of the honorary title and his acceptance of it may seem problematic to some.
The bestowing of the honorary title on French heads of state follows a longstanding tradition, dating back to 15th century French monarchy.
Not all recent French Presidents have made the trip to Rome to accept the honor.
René Coty was the first to do so in 1957, followed by Charles de Gaulle, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. Georges Pompidou, François Mitterrand and François Hollande accepted the title without traveling to the Basilica of St. John Lateran to receive it.
France has traditionally been called the “eldest daughter of the Church” because of its deep Catholic devotion, but a law enacted in 1905 made it officially a secular state. While Catholicism remains the predominant religion, the country is highly secularized, increasingly untethered from its rich Catholic history and tradition.
Macron evidently sees that as a problem. “At a time of great social fragility . . . I consider it my responsibility to stop the erosion of confidence among Catholics with regard to politics and politicians.”
Earlier in the day Macron met privately with Pope Francis for an hour.
“There were many issues on the table such as the environment, a topic which concerns both men following the United States’ exit from the Paris agreement,” according to Rome Reports. The two also discussed the migration crisis in the Mediterranean that is polarizing both Italy and France.
The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest public church in Rome, the oldest and highest ranking of the four papal major basilicas, and is the ecclesiastical seat of the Pope.
The title, “first and only honorary canon of the Archbasilica of the Lateran,” was originally reserved for French kings nearly five centuries ago in response to the French monarchy’s generous support of the Lateran Basilica, aimed at securing a strong foothold in Roman geopolitics.
The arrangement was not uncommon in the 15th century: Germany’s emperor was known as the canon of St. Peter and the King of Spain was canon of Sainte-Marie-Majeure. Before the Reformation, the kings of England were known as the canon of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
Since the end of the French monarchy, the honorary title has been awarded to French heads of state.