France's President Hollande to meet the Pope after priest killing

French President Francois Hollande (left) will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on August 16.
French President Francois Hollande (left) will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on August 16.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday (Aug 16) to discuss the aftermath of the murder of a French priest, Mr Hollande's office said.

An official told AFP the meeting was organised "following the events in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray", the northern town where 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel was killed by two teens claiming allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

They are also expected to discuss the situation facing Christians in the Middle East. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is likely to accompany Mr Hollande, the official at the Elysee presidential palace said.

Mr Hollande may also visit San Luigi dei Francesi (Saint-Louis-des-Francais), a French church in central Rome, to pay tribute to the victims of terrorism.

Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean stormed Hamel's church on July 26 and slit his throat in front of a small group of worshippers while he was conducting mass.

The attack was the first committed in the name of ISIS against a church in the West.

Both Kermiche and Petitjean were shot dead by the police.

On July 14, a militant ploughed a 19-tonne truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day on the seafront in Nice, killing 85 people and leaving 434 injured.

It will be Mr Hollande's second visit to the Vatican, after a trip he made in January 2014.

Relations between the Socialist Party leader and the Holy See have seen periods of tension, triggered by Mr Hollande's failed attempt to appoint an openly gay diplomat as ambassador to the Vatican and a 2013 law in France that approved same-sex marriage.