By AC Wimmer
Pope Francis received French President Emmanuel Macron for nearly one hour at the Vatican on Monday. The Holy See Press Office said the conversation centered on the war in Ukraine.
“During the cordial discussions, which took place in the Secretariat of State, the parties focused on matters of an international nature, starting from the conflict in Ukraine, with special attention to the humanitarian situation,” according to Vatican News.
The meeting also covered “the region of the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Africa,” the Holy See said.
The French president’s papal audience on Oct. 24 was the third with Francis.
In February, Catholic bishops across Europe had expressed “deep concern” at Macron’s proposal for abortion to be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Group of abuse victims raises concern
Before the meeting on Monday, a group of victims of sexual abuse urged Macron to directly raise the issue of whether the Church in France is too slow in reacting to the landmark investigation of sexual abuse released one year ago.
“It’s about protecting the most vulnerable, especially children,” Olivier Savignac, a former abuse victim and co-founder of the Parler et Revivre association (Talk and Live Again) told Reuters.
The almost 2,500-page document said that an estimated 216,000 children were abused by French priests, deacons, monks, or nuns from 1950 to 2020.
Ahead of the meeting, Macron’s office said the subject had been addressed with the pope in the past and that it was not likely to be brought up, Reuters reported.
‘Constructive’ discussion with Meloni
The French president also met up with Italy’s first female prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, on Sunday.
Their private discussion — “constructive,” “frank,” and “open,” according to Macron — covered the challenges Europe currently is facing, from the support for Ukraine and high energy costs to mass migration and economic problems, according to an AP report.
Before meeting Meloni, the French president also spoke about Russia’s war on Ukraine at the opening of the Cry for Peace conference, sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community.
Macron said an end to the conflict should not mean the “consecration of the law of the strongest.” Ukraine should decide if and how there could be peace terms with Russia.
Italy’s new leader has described herself in speeches as a Christian and has publicly expressed her admiration for St. John Paul II and her desire to meet Pope Francis in person.