Skip to main content

French President Francois Hollande meets with Pope Francis amid scandal

By Laura Smith-Spark and Livia Borghese, CNN
updated 7:13 AM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
French President Francois Hollande, left, meets with Pope Francis on Friday at the Vatican.
French President Francois Hollande, left, meets with Pope Francis on Friday at the Vatican.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Francois Hollande meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican
  • The French President's visit to Rome comes amid turmoil in his private life
  • Hours before his visit, a small bomb exploded near buildings with links to France
  • Hollande and Valerie Trierweiler are working to clarify their relationship, Le Figaro says

Rome (CNN) -- French President Francois Hollande met with Pope Francis privately Friday amid media speculation over his alleged affair with an actress.

Hollande also plans to meet Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and French clergy while in Rome.

Hours before he arrived at the Vatican, a small bomb exploded in central Rome near a French foundation and French cultural center, police said.

The blast damaged three cars and broke windows in two nearby buildings, said Agostino Vitolo, a spokesman for Italy's military police, or Carabinieri.

There's been no claim of responsibility for the bomb. It's unclear whether its detonation is linked to the visit by the French President.

France Hollande's Dysfunctional Family
Does France care about Hollande's private life?

Hollande's private life has been the subject of global headlines since claims in the French magazine Closer of a two-year affair with actress Julie Gayet.

The allegations of an affair have left the position of the President's partner, Valerie Trierweiler, in some doubt.

It's not clear whether she will accompany Hollande on a state visit to Washington next month.

Hollande and Trierweiler are working to issue a "clarification" concerning their relationship, Trierweiler's attorney, Frederique Giffard, told the French daily newspaper Le Figaro in an interview published late Thursday.

After the alleged love affair, Trierweiler "truly wants to resolve the matter in order to come out of it in the most dignified way possible," Giffard told Le Figaro.

Trierweiler has been Hollande's partner for several years.

Last weekend, she left the hospital where she'd spent a week being treated for stress and fatigue, Paris Match magazine reported. The same magazine -- where Trierweiler is a longtime correspondent -- said Saturday that she would recover for "several days" in an official residence in Versailles.

Hollande may hope his visit to Rome will help improve his standing in France, a majority-Catholic country.

His relationship with many Catholics was damaged by a bruising battle last year over the passage of a law allowing same-sex marriage and adoption. The measure was one of Hollande's election pledges.

The Catholic Church in France opposed the legislation. Many of the faithful joined huge marches in protest against it, but they were unable to stop it from becoming law.

Nationwide, Hollande has seen his personal approval ratings plummet since his election in 2012, although this has been attributed to dissatisfaction with his leadership rather than disapproval of his private life.

A recent survey by French pollster Ifop with French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche found that more than 80% of respondents had not changed their opinion of the President based on the allegations of an affair.

READ: Why the French President needs Michelle Obama

READ: France's Hollande visits first lady as more claims about affair emerge

CNN's Livia Borghese reported from Rome, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London. CNN's Pierre Meilhan contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
A year ago, 1,000 garment workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Here's a look at what has changed since then.
updated 12:53 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Focus is on the fish as U.S. President starts tour with visit to legendary Tokyo restaurant.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Fireworks are fantastic and human endeavor has its place, but sometimes Mother Nature outshines any performance we can produce.
updated 11:06 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In 1987, China sent its very first email. Here's what it said,
updated 10:13 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
The world's new fastest elevator will fling you from earth to the 95th floor before you're done reading this article.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In one U.S. state, a new bill will allow ordinary citizens to carry guns in all sorts of places. Does it make you feel safer?
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
updated 3:01 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT