.- Peace efforts in the Middle East, the current economy and the desire to maintain permanent dialogue between France and the Holy See were the subject of a meeting held between Pope Benedict XVI and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Vatican on Friday morning.
A communique from the Vatican Press Office announced on Oct. 8 that both the French president and the Pope engaged in a “cordial discussion” which touched on various topics, including the role of Christians in various countries and the task of getting a broader swath of countries involved in multilateral organizations.
The two also addressed the “ethical and social dimension” of economic problems, in the light of the Pontiff's encyclical, “Caritas in veritate.”
“Having then recalled His Holiness' apostolic trip to Lourdes and Paris in 2008, and President Sarkozy's visit to the Vatican of the preceding year, the two men reiterated their joint desire to maintain permanent dialogue at various institutional levels, and to continue constructive collaboration on matters of mutual interest,” the statement read.
President Sarkozy's 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. Following the incident, the Pope gave encouragement to French pilgrims in an audience shortly after the fact to "accommodate legitimate human diversities" as a critique of their policy. According to the French paper La Croix, Sarkozy also has an interest in trying to win Catholic votes ahead of elections, which are scheduled for 18 months from now.
During their meeting, the two also discussed the international political situation, including peace efforts in the Middle East. Relations between the Muslim world and France have been tense ever since
the French government instituted a country wide ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa and any other full face covering veil.
After France's National Assembly and Upper House of Parliament voted largely in favor of the ban, the country's Constitutional Council endorsed the measure on Oct. 7 – a move that eliminates any legal barrier from the ban being enforced as law.
Agence France Presse reported that although the council upheld the ban as constitutional, it included an amendment ruling the measure as ineffective in public places of worship to avoid violating the freedom of religion.