RELIGION – Before meeting his Italian counterpart Mario Draghi, Jean Castex will be received this Monday, October 18 in the morning in Rome by Pope Francis in a stormy context for the Church of France, faced with shattering revelations on sexual abuse and a controversy around the “secret of confession”.
The visit of Jean Castex, long planned to celebrate the centenary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See, is shaken by the news after the publication on October 5 of the conclusions of the Independent Commission on the abuses sexuality in the Church (Ciase), chaired by the senior official Jean-Marc Sauvé.
The “shame” of the “Saved” report
If the Prime Minister, received in private audience by the Sovereign Pontiff, should according to his entourage evoke several subjects on which France and the Vatican converge (access to vaccines for all, climate change, Lebanon …), it is impossible to conceal the extent figures from the report: 216,000 minors attacked by a priest or a religious in France since the 1950s, 330,000 including lay aggressors in connection with the institutions of the Church.
Especially since since his election in 2013, the Pope has made the fight against sexual abuse – “Satan’s instrument” – one of the priorities of his pontificate.
François has already expressed his “shame” and “pain” following the Sauvé report and Jean Castex will assure that he will follow “very closely the decisions that the bishops will take in the coming weeks”, according to his advisers. .
Debate on the primacy of the secrecy of confession
But the debate was also tied around the secrecy of the confession, that the president of the Conference of the bishops of France (CEF) Emmanuel de Moulins-Beaufort had judged “superior to the laws of the Republic”, before back pedaling and of evoke a “clumsy formulation”.
On this point, Jean Castex, who will meet during the morning in Rome with several dignitaries of the Holy See as well as representatives of the French ecclesiastical community, should limit the debate to national borders by recalling that “the interlocutor of the government, c ‘is the Church of France ”.
“The stone is above all in the garden of the bishops” of France, who will “have to say how to articulate the protection of children and the secrecy of confession which, in French law, is a professional secret, neither more nor less”, insist the services of the Prime Minister.
One way not to rush the Vatican, which itself is walking on eggshells: on the one hand, a crime report form was made available to any clergyman in July 2020; on the other hand, the Holy See confirmed the primacy of the secrecy of confession, the confessor being simply encouraged to “try to convince the penitent” to alert people in a position to take legal action.
Immigration on the menu with Draghi
In the afternoon, Jean Castex, accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, will be expected at Palazzo Chigi by the head of government and former boss of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi. The opportunity to further embody the warming of relations between France and Italy, marked by episodes of tension, especially on the migration issue when the far-right leader Matteo Salvini was Minister of the Interior.
The subject will obviously be invited back to the table of discussions as France will exercise the rotating presidency of the European Union from January 1.
In this context, Paris intends to make strengthening Europe’s external borders one of its priorities, in particular by setting up secure registration camps at the main gateways to the continent, including Italy.
The challenge is to get Rome to set up this filtering, which will condition a “solidarity policy”, that is to say the allocation of funds, the subject of close negotiations in Brussels for a year.
Finally, Castex and Draghi should affirm their desire to see the successful conclusion quickly, perhaps by the end of the year, of the Quirinal draft treaty, initiated in 2017 and which is intended to provide “a more stable and ambitious framework. ”To Franco-Italian cooperation, on the model of the Elysée Treaty between France and Germany.
See also on The HuffPost: Covid-19: for Pope Francis, getting vaccinated is “an act of love”