ROME — Pope Francis on Sunday held a 40-minute conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, according to several reports quoting information provided by the Elysée Palace. The two leaders spoke about the pope’s recent trip to Iraq and the post-COVID-19 pandemic world.
This was the fourth time the Argentine pontiff and the French leader have spoken to each other, and this time the call reportedly took place at the request of the pontiff.
During the conversation, Macron called Francis’s March 5-8 visit to Iraq a “turning point for the region.”
The president and the pope “shared their thoughts and concerns in the face of the crises that are destabilizing many regions of the world: The expansion of jihadism in Africa, whether in the Sahel or on the continent’s east coast; the situation in Lebanon; and more generally the instability caused by countries which use religious diplomacy for political ends,” according to the French government.
The president, who visited the Vatican in June 2018, and the pope also discussed “the challenges of the post-COVID world, subject of the book published by the Holy Father in December.”
This is a reference to Let Us Dream, a book-length interview with the pontiff by British author Austen Ivereigh.
This is the second time in a span of 10 days that the pope has made headlines in France for his interests in the local political situation: After a March 15 meeting with several French environmentalists, one of them revealed to the L’Obs that Francis was concerned over the rise of populism.
“I don’t want to be rude or tell your country what to do,” Francis reportedly told environmentalist Cyril Dios. “But it’s worrying. I’m worried about the rise of populism. But the antidote is a popular movement. And to listen to this movement. ‘Popularism’ must be opposed to populism. A good government must trust the citizens, it must listen to them.”
Marion Anne Perrine “Marine” Le Pen, the 2022 presidential candidate for the far-right populist National Rally party, responded to the pope’s alleged comments, going to Twitter to say: “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God … I am convinced that many believers would be delighted that the Pope takes care of what is happening in churches rather than at the ballot box. Let everyone do what they are meant to do.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma