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Tags: Pope Francis | Vatican | Gay | Ambassador | Stefanini

Vatican May Confirm Gay Ambassador

Edward Pentin By Monday, 27 April 2015 01:55 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Mystery continues to surround France’s proposed new ambassador to the Holy See, who the Vatican has yet to approve nearly four months after the French government nominated him.

Some reports claim Laurent Stefanini’s alleged self-proclaimed homosexuality is barring him from confirmation, but others insist the French diplomat has no companion but is a practicing Catholic who converted in his 30s. The French Catholic news agency I.Media describes the candidate as a “discreet homosexual.”

Stefanini, 54, served as deputy chief of mission at the French embassy to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005 and had a “very good reputation,” a diplomatic source in Rome told me. “He was well regarded by everyone.”

As with other nations, the Holy See will give its agrément usually within four to six weeks of nomination. The process is conducted in extreme secrecy to avoid improper interference that can cause relations between states to cool. Except in special circumstances, if there is no response after that time period, usually this is regarded as an implicit rejection and the state should withdraw the application.

Surprisingly, Pope Francis chose to have a private meeting with Stefanini at the Vatican on April 17 in order to reassure him that he had nothing against his appointment. The two men reportedly had a cordial, 40-minute conversation that was also “full of spirituality.”

One Rome diplomat called the move “absolutely bizarre” as it’s not clear who was behind the meeting, with some speculating it was the Pope’s initiative — perhaps contrary to the will of the Vatican secretariat of state — and others that it was through Archbishop André Vingt Trois of Paris, who is a friend of Stefanini.

In accordance with international protocol, the Holy See is remaining tight-lipped over reasons for the delay. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told me he never makes declarations on the nominations of ambassadors, such is the usual discretion over such matters.

But it’s thought that one reason for the delay could simply be the changeover of Vatican “foreign minister” in January, leading to confirmation being put back. It may also be due to poor Vatican communications, which is not unusual. But more significant is why the leaking of the delay, and by whom?

The most likely answer relates to "Manif Pour Tous" — the popular protests against same-sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples in France —and Stefanini’s possible sympathies for the campaign. By leaking the delay and exaggerating the homosexuality claims, it serves to harm not only Stefanini’s chances of becoming ambassador but also works to the detriment of the campaign and France’s pro-traditional marriage movement.

But some discount this and remain mystified by the leaker’s possible goals. If the aim was to block his appointment, they say, there are easier ways to make it unpalatable.

For now, signs are that both the French government and the Holy See will proceed with the appointment. Given the Pope’s implicit approval of the appointment, the Vatican is unlikely to rule differently.

On the part of the French government, spokesman Stéphane Le Foll told reporters on April 24 that “diplomats, like citizens, are entitled to respect for their private lives” and reiterated the “remarkable qualities” of the nominee. “This is a person who meets all the requirements for this position in terms of intellectual rigor or knowledge of religious issues,” he said.

He added that Stefanini’s nomination was approved by French President Francois Hollande and no other candidate has been put forward.

Whether the Vatican does or doesn’t eventually give agrément, many will want to hear a reason for the decision and the delay. But past practice, and the standard secrecy surrounding such appointments, means that probably won’t be forthcoming.

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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Mystery continues to surround France’s proposed new ambassador to the Holy See who the Vatican has yet to approve, nearly four months after the French government nominated him.
Vatican, Gay, Ambassador, Stefanini
Monday, 27 April 2015 01:55 PM
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