Francois Hollande Meets with Pope Francis

Hollande may use visit to rebuild ties with Catholic community

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Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

French President François Hollande and his partner Valérie Trierweiler accompany guests following a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Oct. 1, 2013

French President François Hollande met privately with Pope Francis on Friday, in his first overseas visit since reports of his alleged affair with an actress.

The visit was covered live by Vatican Television, which showed the motorcade arrival in the Apostolic Palace courtyard, the president’s walk with Swiss Guards and his greeting with Pope Francis in his private study.

Hollande may be hoping the visit will improve how the French perceive him, since a majority of the country is Catholic. The president has suffered historically low approval ratings in recent months.

The president’s personal life was thrust into the spotlight when Closer reported Hollande was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet. The magazine published photos of a man it claimed was Hollande, being driven on a scooter to a reported tryst with Gayet.

His partner of several years, Valerie Trierweiler, checked into a hospital for exhaustion following the reports. It’s not yet clear whether she will join him for a state visit to Washington D.C. on Feb. 11.

Hours before his arrival, a small homemade bomb detonated near a French foundation that manages architectural finds in Rome. The Carabinieri military police reported no one was injured despite shattered windows and three damaged cars nearby.