On the campaign trail in 2012, Francois Hollande declared his support for the LGBT citizens of France by promising to pursue the legalization of same-sex marriage. The following year, newly-elected President Hollande signed the the successful bill, making France the thirteenth nation in the world to realize marriage equality. His presidency has had some rough patches and there has been vocal resistance to the furtherance of LGBT rights within the country, but Hollande has remained faithful to his commitment to the community. In a bold move earlier this year, he appointed the openly gay veteran politician Laurent Stefanini as ambassador to the Holy See. Yet, despite the fact that France's last ambassador stepped down over a month ago, the Vatican has yet to confirm Stefanini's appointment. While this may be due to resistance from within the heart of Roman Catholicism, Hollande has insisted that he will not back down on his choice.
The first appointment of an openly gay ambassador to the decidedly anti-gay Vatican--if the current pope has shown himself to be more accepting, at times--is a strong statement from the French. Incredibly, it is one supported by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, who has written to the Curia (College of Cardinals) in support of Stefanini. The president of anti-gay marriage group Manif Por Tous, Ludovine LaRochere, however, has asked the Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican's ambassador) in Paris to resist the appointment. According to the Swiss media site BlastingNews, some members of the Curia have interpreted the move as a deliberate provocation.
The past century has seen a chilling of French-Vatican relations, largely due to the rising secularization of a country once inexorably wedded to the Papacy--Pope Leo III crowned the French King Charlemagne the first Holy Roman Emperor in 800, a position tasked with preserving the church in Europe, and a title second only to the Pope in the hierarchy of Christendom. But despite the weakened hold of religion, France, which is still 64% Catholic, has once again become an important partner. Therefore, further resistance in presenting Stefanini with his credentials would only threaten the accord the two governments now enjoy, and potentially spark a larger controversy than the Vatican would like.