- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2015

Pope Francis has been touted has one of the most progressive Vatican leaders, but the head of the Catholic church is sticking to conservative doctrine by reportedly rejecting France’s new ambassador, Laurent Stefanini, who is openly gay.

Mr. Stefanini, a close aide of French President Francois Hollande, was nominated to the post in January, but the Vatican has yet to respond to the application, according to French website The Local.

The delay is unusual for the Vatican, which typically accepts a new ambassador’s credentials within a month and a half, according to The Local. A prolonged silence after a nomination is usually interpreted as a rejection.

The Vatican would not comment on whether Mr. Stefanini’s sexual orientation affected his application.

French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche quoted a Vatican insider as saying that the rejection was “a decision taken by the pope himself.”

According to The Local, Mr. Stefanini’s nomination was lauded by two high-profile French cardinals and Mr. Hollande, who regards the 54-year-old as “one of our best diplomats.”

This is not the first time the Vatican has rejected the appointment of a gay French ambassador. In 2008 it blocked the appointment of Jean-Loup Kuhn-Delforge.

In 2012 the Vatican rejected Kiril Maritchkov, Bulgaria’s nomination for ambassador to the Holy See, after it was revealed that he had written a novel containing a gay sex scene.

Pope Francis has been praised for his welcoming words towards the LGBT community. Last year he was famously quoted saying “If someone is gay and he searched for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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