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French press review 25 January 2014

President Francois Hollande’s visit to the Vatican on Friday and the crisis in Ukraine attracted the most comments in Saturday’s newspapers.

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Background reading: Previous French scandals

Le Figaroclaims that the private audience between the French leader and Pope Francis failed to erase deep rooted differences between the Socialist government’s policies and the Catholic Church. This is despite the Vatican statement that the two had discussed "constructive cooperation for the common good". "Family, bioethics and the respect of religious communities" were among the issues addressed, but the right-wing Le Figaro says the non-mentioning of the issues in the final statement by any of the two parties confirms they were swept under the carpet. For the paper, the visit was shrouded by the swirling scandal over the French leader's love life and divisions in France over abortion, euthanasia and the continuing rage of Catholics who still oppose the legalisation of gay marriages introduced by the Socialist government.

Aujourd’hui en France also zooms in on what it describes as the “not too warm welcome” at the Vatican. According to the Paris-based daily, French Catholics are not as shocked by the Socialist government’s policies as most people think. It published a survey by the BVA polling institute showing that only 44 percent of Catholics believe President Hollande is implementing a policy that is provocative towards their faith.

Libération slams the double dealing of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.who pledged to reshuffle his government and amend controversial anti-protest laws
to ease the Ukraine's crisis while police continue their crackdown on pro-European protesters, killing five people. They include Ukrainian anti-government activist Yuriy Verbytskiy, who was found dead in a forest outside Kiev on Friday after being abducted this week by a group of individuals. Ukrainian political scientist Dmytro Potekhin tells the paper that President Yanukovyich is using all means at his disposal to revenge the trauma he suffered during the Orange revolution of 2004.

Aujourd’hui en France says the rebellion in Ukraine concerns us all, warning that Russian President Vladmir Putin has placed his iron fist firmly on Kiev. The paper speaks to some of the demonstrators about their European dreams and aspirations. Some said the thrust of the rebellion is about the right to travel freely and live in a more civilised world.

Libération also looks back at Egypt’s Arab spring, three years after the popular uprising at Tahrir Square that unseated autocratic president Hosni Mubarak. The 2011 anniversary is marred by four deadly explosions, including a car bomb that killed 6 people at police headquarters in Cairo. The paper reports that 12 more died in street clashes around the country between Islamist supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi and backers of the military. Libé notes that three years after the popular uprising, the country continues to heal its wounds and mourn the victims of the confiscated revolution. The left-leaning weekly publishes an album containing photographs of some of the victims taken by French photographer Denis Dailleux who has been travelling around the country to meet with their families.

“The French Greens party: what a mess”. The verdict is from the front of today’s Libération as it looks forward to next week’s celebration by Europe-Ecologie-Les Verts’s 30th anniversary. According to the left-leaning newspaper, despite its age, the movement is finding it hard to extricate itself from its teenage tantrum due to internal squabbles, electoral setbacks and its incapability to take advantage of President Francois Hollande’s veering towards Social Democracy.

Aujourd’hui en France followed the first steps to freedom of former gangster Philippe El Shennawy, who spent 38 years behind bars. The paper reports that Shennawy was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977 for a string of armed robberies and taking of hostages, which he denied. It says that, at 59, El Shennawy is enjoying his very first weekend with his wife before starting a new job as manager of a cultural promotion project on Monday. There are now just three prisoners sentenced in the sixties in France, according to Aujourdh’ui en France. They include 77 year-old André Pauletto who has spent 47 years in jail for the murder of his wife in 1967 and his daughter in 1981.

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