Pope welcomes new French envoy after gay candidate snubbed

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Pope welcomes new French envoy after gay snub
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Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis on Thursday welcomed France's new ambassador to the Vatican, two months after Paris abandoned its attempt to have a gay Catholic installed in the post.

Philippe Zeller, a 63-year-old father of two, presented the pontiff with his credentials as he took up a position that had been left vacant for 18 months amid a diplomatic stand-off between France's Socialist government and the Holy See.

French President Francois Hollande named Laurent Stefanini to the post in January 2015 only to be discreetly informed that he would not be accepted. The Vatican's stance was never publicly articulated but was widely interpreted as a calculated snub related to Stefanini's sexuality.

French Catholic paper La Croix said last year the Vatican considered Stefanini's nomination to have been a "provocation", and there was also speculation that the Church was penalising Hollande for enacting same-sex marriage legislation in 2013.

France signalled it was resigned to losing the battle when it named Stefanini as its new envoy to the UN cultural body UNESCO in April.

The row was seen as having damaged Francis's attempts to get the Church to adopt a more welcoming approach to gay believers that was most famously illustrated by his "Who am I to judge?" remark early in his papacy.

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