It is the custom for the Sovereign Pontiff to send a congratulatory message for the inauguration of new heads of states. Francis honored this custom, sending a telegram to the new president of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron.
The telegram was published by the Holy See Press Office on May 16, 2017. The Sovereign Pontiff addresses the new president and reminds him that France remains rooted in Christianity. “I pray that God,” he writes, “ support you so that your country, faithful to the rich diversity of its moral traditions and its spiritual heritage marked also by the Christian tradition, may always endeavor to build a more just and fraternal society.”
At the same time, as there is no doubt that the great social questions such as the “right to euthanasia” or surrogacy are going to be back on the table sooner or later, the Holy Father reminded Emmanuel Macron of the “requirements”[I'm not sure what word that refers to in the original] of “respect for life and...the dignity of every person”. These are non-negotiable matters for the Church.
One might be surprised to see Francis, who in May 2016 declared to La Croix: “a state should be secular”, remind the new French president of his country’s Christian roots. There is actually nothing paradoxical about it, for in the pope’s eyes – and in keeping with the conciliar Declaration Dignitatis Humanae – secularism “should be accompanied by a solid defense of religious freedom” and make “openness to transcendence” a “right for all”. That is why in an interview last year, the Holy Father reproached France for “exaggerating secularism”, an exaggeration that in his opinion comes from “their way of considering religions as sub-cultures and not as actual cultures. I fear,” he concluded, “that this attitude, that can be understood as a heritage of the Enlightenment, still remains”.
An official visit to the Vatican should be included in the new president of the Republic’s schedule, although the date has not yet been set. Similarly, Emmanuel Macron will also soon say whether or not he plans to take possession of his title as Canon of Honor of St. John Lateran, a title that has been granted exclusively to the French heads of state for over four centuries. This privilege dates from the time of King Henry IV who – after his conversion to Catholicism – gave the Benedictine abbey of Clairac (Lot-et-Garonne) and its revenues to the Pope’s cathedral, the Lateran, in 1604. To thank him, the chapter of the cathedral made him an honorary member and promised to celebrate a Mass for France very year on the king’s birthday, December 13. The tradition continues to this day. “During the Mass of the feast of St. Lucy,” writes La Croix, “the French ambassador to the Holy See, in the name of the President of the Republic, is incensed and receives liturgical honors.”
May these remnants of a glorious past remind the new President that, even if he was elected by the people, all authority comes from God.
Sources: Salle de Presse du Saint-Siège/IMedia/La Croix – FSSPX.News – 5/18/17