Pope canonises French nun despite stand-off over gay ambassador nomination

Pope Francis leads the ceremony for the canonisation of four nuns at Saint Peter's square in the Vatican City
Pope Francis leads the ceremony for the canonisation of four nuns at Saint Peter's square in the Vatican City Reuters/Tony Gentile

Pope Francis canonised a 19th-century French nun, along with two Palestinians and an Italian, on Sunday. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve attended the ceremony, despite a stand-off over France's proposed ambassador to the Vatican, as was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


The Pope canonised Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve, a nun born in Toulouse in 1811 who founded a religious community in nearby Castres in 1836, dying there of cholera in 1854.

The Congregation of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception currently has 700 nuns, known as the Blue Sisters of Castres, involved in missionary work around the world.

They run about 50 schools and carry out charitable work in Senegal, Gambia and Gabon, as well as parts of Latin America and the Philippines.

Sources in Rome say that the Vatican saw the decision to send Cazeneuve, who is also the minister responsible for religions, as a sign that the French government wants to resolve a stalemate over its proposal of Laurent Stefanini, a gay diplomat, as its ambassador to the Holy See.

Paris named Stefanini, who is single and described as discreet about his private life, as ambassador in January. But, although he has already worked at the Holy See, the Vatican has yet to accept his nomination.

The French press has speculated that the stand-off is an indication of the Church's disapproval of France's gay marriage law, which was opposed by many French Catholics.

The Italian press has reported advances on the question, according to Le Figaro newspaper.

Despite the secular nature of the French state, this is not the first time a French minister has attended a canonisation.

Current Prime Minister Manuel Valls attended the canonisation of Jesuit missionary Jacques Berthieu when he was interior minister in 2012.

Pope Francis called Palestinian President Abbas an "angel of peace" when he met him on Saturday.

Two Palestinian nuns, Mariam Badawi and Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas, became the first modern-day Palestinian saints on Sunday.

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