French president Emmanuel Macron met with Pope Francis this week at the Vatican in Rome to discuss Europe’s future, with a special focus on immigration.
It is a long-standing tradition for French presidents to meet with the current pope, albeit one favored by more conservative leaders. As a secularist (but in that French way that it’s still acceptable to pass policies that favor Catholics), Macron’s decision to meet with Pope Francis is a deliberate choice to pay homage to French tradition, and to reach out to French Catholic conservatives. But above all, the visit speaks to Macron’s skill as a diplomat. The French president has worked very hard over the last year to build strong relationships with every world leader from U.S. president Donald Trump, to German chancellor Angela Merkel. And after a recent spat between Macron and new Italian president Giuseppe Conte, this seems like a way to insure that he has, at the very least, some allies in Italy.
Macron and Pope Francis spoke on Europe’s current migrant crisis in what must have been a very interesting conversation, given Pope Francis’s call last week for all European nations to accept as many refugees as they can, and Macron’s falling short on his own refugee acceptance quotas. The bottom line is, Macron is going to have to do some heavy lifting to win Italy’s favor, if he wants to be seen as a leader of action and not one of pretty sayings.