A profound principle of the French Republic is the separation between the State and the Church. Consequently, many French observers were shocked to see Nicolas Sarkozy behaving outwardly at the Vatican this weekend, in front of cameras, as if he were there on a private religious pilgrimage.
He was seen crossing himself several times, and even mumbling a prayer... which doesn't sound a lot like the everyday Sarko we all know. In any case, many citizens feel that such behavior is inappropriate on the part of the president of a laic republic such as France. It's all the more annoying when we recall that Sarko was visiting the pope primarily with a view to making amends for recent French deportation operations directed at Gypsies.
Since becoming president, Nicolas Sarkozy has had several opportunities of strutting around with celebrities. (He even married one.) He recently told journalists an amusing anecdote about his visit to Buckingham Palace in March 2008.
Apparently, while getting transported around by royal coach in London's chilly air, Sarko had developed a terrible thirst. As soon as he was seated alongside the queen in the magnificent banqueting hall, our parched president was given what he thought was a glass of water. So he gulped it down in one fell swoop. In fact, it wasn't water; it was gin. And, as we all know, Nicolas had given up alcoholic beverages back in the days when he was a young man full of dreams about becoming the president of France. Consequently, the glass of gin had an immediate effect upon him. Sarko told the journalists that he knew he was somewhat inebriated when he heard himself asking his gracious neighbor whether Her Majesty ever got bored by her job. "Well yes, certainly," replied the queen, "but I never admit it."
I wonder what they gave him to drink at the Vatican this weekend. Holy water?