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Blast near French church in Rome as Hollande visits pope

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-24

A small, homemade bomb exploded outside of a French church in Rome on Friday shortly before President François Hollande was due to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican, the French embassy in Rome told FRANCE 24.

At least five cars were damaged in the blast, which took place in the city centre, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Police said that the incident took place at around 2:30am local time (1:30am GMT), near the church of Saint-Yves-des-Bretons.

The explosion came just hours before the French president was scheduled for a private audience with Pope Francis for an expected tense first meeting. On the agenda is France’s position on abortion and euthanasia and the crisis in Syria.

French lawmakers voted early this week to amend the country’s abortion law, making it easier for a woman to terminate a pregnancy if she so chooses. Hollande has also said in the past that he will look into legalising euthanasia in France, a promise that has outraged many of the country's Catholics.

The French daily Le Monde has also piled on the pressure by mocking the timing of the meeting, which comes amid explosive allegations about the president’s private life and his alleged affair with French actress Julie Gayet, 41. The French paper ran a cartoon of a portly Hollande on a scooter with two women on the back, and the pope declaring: "Who am I to judge?"

The talks were scheduled to begin at 9:30am (GMT).

Date created : 2014-01-24

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