An Awkward Encounter: The Sacred and the Profane

The latest picture to hit the headlines last Friday was that of President François Hollande on his first visit to the Vatican to meet his Holiness, Pope Francis.

The father of four, who has never married, met the leader of the Catholic world, for whom marriage and fidelity is considered the bedrock of society. The encounter, which must have been an awkward affair, came two weeks after revelations emerged of the French president’s highly publicised trysts with the actress Julie Gayet.

Mr Hollande’s ill-timed visit demonstrated his insensitivity and lack of consideration for the Holy See’s position and, notably, his own. Making the journey, leaving his moped and crash helmet behind, he was greeted by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the Pope’s personal secretary, and led up a red carpet – which he doesn’t deserve – into the Apostolic Palace at the heart of the Vatican. Flanked by Swiss Guards, he was escorted down the corridors of polished marble and through grand entrances, before being finally led into a reception room to meet the Pope. ‘I’m happy to be welcomed here,’ said the president. The Pope and the president posed for photographs and then held a thirty-five-minute private meeting.

Perhaps the gist of their conversation was as follows…

The Pope: ‘Mr President, have you anything to confess?’

Mr Hollande: ‘Nothing of importance, your Holiness. I lead a hectic life and quite frankly I have no time to enjoy myself or indulge in pleasurable pursuits.’

The Pope: ‘What about your philandering, which seems to take certain priorities in your daily life?’

Mr Hollande: ‘There is a French tradition that when you attain the presidency one of the perks of the job is to give as much pleasure to women as is possible. In order not to let the side down I’m simply doing my duty with the diligence it requires.’

The Pope: ‘But to engage in carnal activities jeopardises your chance of entering the gates of Heaven.’

Mr Hollande: ‘Your Holiness, I’m sorry to admit that I am a non-believer, but sensitive to Catholic values. I prefer to think in terms of spreading the joy of sexual congress with beautiful women, whose lives I’ve transformed to become responsible citizens of the Republic by virtue of the gratification I selflessly give them. To that end, I’m truly committed!’

The Pope: ‘All I can say is that I will pray for your salvation and perhaps miraculously you will be saved through the grace of God from eternal damnation.’

Mr Hollande: ‘Your Holiness, although your beliefs are contrary to mine, all I can say is that if there is a word that brings us together it is “dignity, the defence of human dignity”.’

It was then that the meeting reached an abrupt finality. The pontiff was visibly shaken, but remained stoic and determined to overcome the grave disappointment of the day. Mr Hollande, in turn, left with his now flaccid tail between his legs.

Could it be that his visit to the Pope gave the dithering Hollande the courage to dump the Rottweiler, after eight years of co-habitation of what one would assume to have been a tempestuous relationship, boosted by a strong sexual proximity that has now fizzled out? Only a bedroom voyeur could know the answer…

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