Vatican rejects France's new gay ambassador

Francis X. Rocca

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VATICAN CITY -- France has reportedly withdrawn its nomination of an openly gay man as ambassador to the Holy See, following objections from the Vatican.

According to French and Italian press reports, the Vatican has refused the required diplomatic approval of several candidates proposed by Paris for the job, which has been vacant since the previous ambassador died in December 2007.

"The first candidate was divorced ... another Protestant, and the last not only homosexual but ... stably united with an official companion" in France's form of domestic partnership, the Italian daily La Repubblica reported on Monday (Sept. 29).

According to the paper, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, the Vatican recently agreed to the appointment of Stanislas de Laboulaye, who is currently France's envoy to Russia.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, declined to comment on the matter, as did a spokesman for the French embassy to the Holy See.

The hiatus in diplomatic representation contrasts with generally warm relations between Pope Benedict XVI and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has questioned his government's long-standing policy of strict secularism and called for greater recognition of France's Christian heritage.

However, the Vatican's rejection of ambassadorial candidates on account of their personal lives is hardly unprecedented.

Earlier this year, Argentina reportedly withdrew its nomination of former Justice Minister Alberto Iribarne as ambassador to the Holy See after the Vatican objected that Iribarne had been divorced and remarried, in violation of Catholic teaching.

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