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France urges Vatican to meet Syrian opposition

Pope Francis meets François Hollande at the Holy See on 24 January.
Pope Francis meets François Hollande at the Holy See on 24 January. Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi
2 min

France has called on the Pope to receive members of the Syrian opposition as part of international peace efforts for Syria.

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After a short private meeting with Pope Francis on Friday, President François Hollande said he and the Pope found common ground in condemning conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, and fighting poverty and climate change.

Echoing statements last week he believed the Pope had a role to play in international issues, Hollande said the Vatican is present at this week's Syria peace talks in Geneva.

"The Vatican could welcome the Syrian democratic coalition, to emphasise that peace must come through a political solution that allows pluralism, and that the Geneva II conference should be aimed at transition,” Hollande said.

Hollande avoided discussing broaching topics in French society.

Last week, French officials angered Catholics by voting to make it easier for a woman to have an abortion, and announcing they would extend the country's assisted suicide laws.

The government's relations with French Catholics are already degraded after last year's gay marriage bill and the heated campaign against it.

Hollande affirmed the Church was welcome to take part in public debates.

"The secular principles of the French republic guarantee the respect of all beliefs, and let all citizens and residents of our country live together, by the same rules. Secularlism allows debates to happen between religions, including the Catholic Church, on the heaviest, most serious issues in our society. This dialogue with the Catholic Church is possible through respect of our secular principles," he said.

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