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EUROPE > Hollande and minister under fire over papal wisecracks

PARIS - Agence France-Presse

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France's president Francois Hollande.  AFP photo/ Martin BUREAU

France's president Francois Hollande. AFP photo/ Martin BUREAU

French President Francois Hollande came under fire on Tuesday after cracking a joke about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign because of his failing health.

At a press conference with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday, Hollande initially observed sombrely that the Catholic church should be left in peace to organise Benoit's succession.

But he could not resist adding with a smirk: "We won't be putting up a candidate!" The Socialist leader's irreverence at a time of great consternation for many Catholics was slammed as inappropriate by former interior minister Claude Gueant.

"Everyone knows that Francois Hollande is not very well disposed to religion in general and to the Catholic church in particular," Gueant told Canal + television.

"But to make a joke about such a dignified decision is not good at all. It is completely out of place." Gueant also took a swipe at Hollande's minister for older people, Michele Delaunay, who tweeted under the hashtags #Age and #JobsforSeniors: "I have to admit that, rightly or wrongly, Benoit XVI failed to consult me before taking his decision." She later deleted the message.

Gueant commented: "They are joking about someone of such stature, it's really not very good at all." Hollande, who was brought up by Catholic parents and attended a private Catholic school, has been widely described as an atheist. Jealously protective of his private life, he has only confirmed that he does not practise any religion while having respect for all faiths.

The president's domestic arrangements are certainly not compatible with Catholic teaching. Hollande lives with his glamorous girlfriend, Valerie Trierweiller, for whom he left the mother of his four children, whom he never married.

February/12/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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mara mcglothin

2/12/2013 6:01:09 PM

VARGEN Didn't you hear that they played a lively rendition of NYNY at Mayor Ed Koch's funeral. I agree it is in bad taste to speak ill of the dead, but people need to lighten up. There are many comedians in the USA who poke fun at religion, their own included. I am sure that Kathy Griffin would be under the jail in Turkey for featuring her mother's Catholicism in her act.

mara mcglothin

2/12/2013 4:33:13 PM

Everyone needs to lighten up. I am sure some comedians that are Catholic in the USA will be talking about the Pope needing more time for his golf game, etc.. I guess we are no so concerned with insult or honor in the West. Get over yourselves people.

Vargen Vargen

2/12/2013 4:31:27 PM

What a silly reaction. It was not inappropriate at all. If a person dies, it is certainly inappropriate to crack jokes, but the fact that a person resign can hardly be seen as very sensitive.

K M

2/12/2013 4:18:22 PM

OOH, good grief. Someone's looking for a reason to be insulted!

US Observer

2/12/2013 3:52:12 PM

There is plenty of things to be mad at with the Elitist Socialist President...this would not be one of them.

OZman Cometh

2/12/2013 3:40:14 PM

scepticism is fine, humour is fine but mockery is churlish and childish.

george gritsis

2/12/2013 3:18:17 PM

France is secular: all religions are sacred but no individual, who ever that is and positions he holds, is immune from joke. In France, the president cannot sue anyone for defamation, so the pope is certainly not protected and believe me , right now in France (supposedly 90% catholic) emails & tweets are full of jokes about the pope. Being able to laugh about oneself is a sign of good mental health.

Rimon Tree

2/12/2013 12:37:22 PM

@ SAM Agreed! It seems that all the monotheistic religions are lacking humour and their adherents taking their own phantasies for facts and being deadly insulted when others make fun of it in our scientific age!

sam stevens

2/12/2013 11:30:56 AM

Oh for heavens sake, get a sense of humour people. We all laugh at politicians yet for some reason religious people hold themselves higher than anyone else... Why ? All religious people are story tellers, not one bit of evidence can they offer that they speak the truth .
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