During Pope Francis’ meeting with French president Francois Hollande on Friday, the two discussed an array of topics concerning human dignity, centering the meeting on the role of religion in society.
In a Jan. 24 statement released regarding the meeting earlier that morning, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi revealed that the “cordial” discussion primarily focused on “the contribution that religion makes to the common good.”
Pope Francis received President Hollande in audience at the Vatican Apostolic Palace on Friday morning, which was the first meeting between the two since either has been elected.
Hollande won the 2012 elections in the French Republic as the Socialist party candidate, and is the first leftwing president the country has had in almost 20 years.
Emphasizing the standing positive relations between France and the Holy See, both the Pope and the President voiced a mutual commitment to sustaining regular dialogue between the State and the Catholic Church, and continuing constructive collaboration regarding questions of common interest.
In the context of the defense and promotion of the dignity of the human person, the Vatican’s statement revealed that the two discussed various matters which are of current relevance, including the topics of the family, bioethics, respect for religious communities and the protection of places of worship.
The discussion then turned to international issues, such as problems regarding poverty and development, migration and the environment, and particular concern was voiced surrounding the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, and in some regions of Africa.
Regarding these situations, the pair expressed hope that a peaceful social co-existence in the countries affected can be established again through dialogue, with the full participation of all members of society.
Pope Francis and the President also spoke of their desire that this restored peace would be one that recognizes with full respect the rights of all, in particular those of ethnic and religious minorities.
The last meeting to take place between a Pope and French officials was in Oct. of 2010, when retired pontiff Benedict XVI met with President Nicolas Sarkozy.
During the 2010 encounter, Benedict and Sarkozy spoke of the role of Christians in various countries around the world, as well as the task of getting a broader spectrum of countries involved in multilateral organizations.
Among the other issues discussed between the two were the ethical and social dimensions of economic problems in light of the Pope’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritatae,” as well as the international political situation, including peace efforts and the Middle East, with particular emphasis on relations with the Muslim population.