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Holy Father to meet with government heads of France, Spain

.- In the last week, media sources have confirmed that the Holy Father will be meeting with French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on separate occasions in the coming months.

According to French religious news source I.media, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with president Sarkozy in the Vatican on Oct. 8. The Pope and French president have met twice previously, in Paris in 2008 and in 2007, less than a year after Sarkozy's election.

The visit comes on the heels of a situation brought about by tighter restrictions by the French government on camps of undocumented Roma-ethnicity peoples, some 200 of whom were expelled from the country in August. According to France's La Croix, this could enter into possible items on the agenda for the audience, especially because the government took the Pope's encouragement to French pilgrims in an audience shortly after the fact to "accommodate legitimate human diversities" as a critique of their policy.

La Croix also reported that with just 18 months before elections, Sarkozy is interested in Catholic votes.

A brief audience between the Pope and Spanish president Zapatero will also take place during the Holy Father's pastoral visit to the Spain this fall. On Nov. 7, according to Spanish vice-president, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, the Pope will host Zapatero while in Barcelona.

Europa Press reported that after a meeting with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone in the Vatican this week, De la Vega said that the Holy See can be sure of "the full institutional collaboration of the Government of Spain" during the two-day trip.

The Spanish president last met with the Holy Father in the Vatican last June when they discussed ethics in the midst of the economic crisis that has hit Spain and spoke of protecting the unborn.


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