France says Vatican has not issued response for proposed ambassador

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Despite media reports that Pope Francis refused the candidate that France proposed as its next ambassador to the Holy See, the French government has yet to receive an official response from the Vatican, said a spokesperson for the French government.

"For the moment, we wait," said Stephane Le Foll.

During a press briefing Wednesday in Paris, Le Foll confirmed that Pope Francis met with the proposed candidate, Laurent Stefanini. However, Le Foll discounted reports claiming the pope did not approve the nomination.

"What is cited in the newspaper is not the official word of the Vatican," he said, responding to a question from a journalist. "I do not give any credit to the information [about the refusal] you brought up."

According to the French Catholic news agency I.Media, the pope and Stefanini had a 40-minute private meeting at the Domus Sanctae Marthae on April 17, during which they spoke and prayed together.

Since then, however, some media outlets published reports that accuse the Vatican of refusing France's nomination because Stefanini is gay. The press also cited Bernard Kouchner, a French politician and co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres, as reacting to the Vatican's alleged refusal, describing it as "racism."

Le Foll told journalists he would not comment on Kouchner's remarks, adding that as the former French minister of foreign and European affairs, Kouchner "should know in any case, on all of these subjects, to always take many precautions before commenting on information."

The French government is waiting -- "after the normal discussions, the time that is necessary for the study of the candidacy" -- for a response from the Vatican, Le Foll said.

International law grants all states, including the Vatican, the right to review all nominations and accept or reject an appointed ambassador. The review process is usually private and states are not obliged to give a reason for refusing a proposed candidate.

Stefanini, currently France's chief of protocol, is Catholic and worked as the first councilor for the French embassy to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005.

The Vatican press office has declined to comment on Stefanini's candidacy.

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