Vatican silence over gay ambassador
The Vatican is keeping schtum on reports that it won’t accept a new French ambassador – Laurent Stéfanini, 55, above – because he is gay.
According to the BBC, the French government proposed the senior diplomat for the post in January. It normally takes about a month for an appointment to be approved, but three months on the Vatican has kept a diplomatic silence.
Media reports in France say the French government is refusing to back down over the appointment.
In 2007, France proposed an openly gay diplomat to be its ambassador at the Vatican but was forced to choose another after months of silence.
The French Catholic newspaper La Croix reports that the Vatican has indicated the posting is unacceptable.
Stefanini is openly gay and was posted to France’s Rome embassy between 2001 and 2005.
The foreign ministry in Paris reportedly said:
He is one of our best diplomats. That’s why we appointed him. We are waiting for a reply to our request.
The BBC’s Rome correspondent James Reynolds says that the apparent rejection may not be the Vatican responding to Mr Stefanini’s sexuality. One interpretation could be that the Holy See is displeased with France’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013.
The Guardian adds that Stéfanini is a practising Catholic who has been described in the Italian press as an exemplary candidate and a man of “exceptional culture”. He is a senior diplomat and chief of protocol in the French government of François Hollande.
The appointment of Stéfanini was blessed by the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, above, according to a report in Out magazine.
The French embassy to the Holy See declined to comment.
The Vatican Insider, which closely follows the Vatican in Rome, claims that Stéfanini was invited to a meeting with the apostolic nuncio in Paris, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, on February 5 and informally asked to step aside and renounce his nomination because of his sexual orientation.
The report, which did not disclose the source of the information, said the manner in which the request was made – during a private and informal meeting – underlined that it was considered a “very delicate” situation for the Vatican.
Stéfanini told the archbishop that it was not in his mandate to renounce the nomination, since it was a matter for the French government to decide.
If Stéfanini has been rejected because he is gay, it would not be the first time the Vatican has turned down an “unacceptable” candidate.
The Vatican dismissed reports in 2009 that it had rejected three possible US candidates for ambassador put forward by the Obama administration because they supported abortion rights.
But there have been two occasions in the past 10 years when the Vatican has openly objected to candidates – one from Argentina, who was divorced and lived with his new partner, and another from France, who was gay and in a civil union with another man.
A Vatican source told the Catholic News Service in 2009:
For Catholic ambassadors, there is the question of their matrimonial situation. But outside of that, I don’t think there are other criteria.
In most cases, potential ambassadors are proposed to the Vatican before a formal nomination is made, at which point objections can be aired. It is unclear whether France had cleared the Stéfanini nomination beforehand.