05 January 2022, The Tablet

French laity request role in episcopal appointments.

One group called for a “Synodal” approach to the selection of Bishops.

French laity request role in episcopal appointments.

Dijon Cathedral.
Andrea Schaffer/Flickr

Lay Catholics in France are calling on the Vatican to involve them in the choice of their next archbishop, amid the French Church’s sexual abuse scandal and search for new leadership in Paris. 

The first request came from Dijon in eastern France, where about 75 lay people outlined the preferred profile of a candidate to succeed Archbishop Roland Minnerath, now 75 and due to step down soon, and offered their help in reforming and running the archdiocese. 

An aide to nuncio Archbishop Celestino Migliore received a group spokesman to discuss their letter and the embassy passed it along to the Vatican with the secret terna proposing three candidates, the daily La Croix reported. 

The group said it was inspired by the “clarity” of the hard-hitting report on sexual abuse in the Church and wanted an archbishop who could be “a travel companion and a brother at a time when the synod launched by Pope Francis opens in the Church”. 

Group member Michel Fasné said Dijon laity weren’t asking to pick an archbishop. “We are positioning ourselves to say how things will work afterwards,” he said.

Also in December, a group called The Baptised of Greater Paris wrote to Migliore in a more critical tone, saying the “opaque and archaic” system of choosing bishops was “hardly crowned by success” and should be scrapped.

The laity and clergy should be consulted about “the drawing up of the candidates list and the choice of the three names sent to the Pope”, it said, arguing that such participation was traditional in the Church.

“Have we forgotten the election of Ambrose in Milan, chosen by the crowd when he was not even baptised?” it asked. “Have we forgotten that throughout the first millennium, bishops were appointed by their communities?”

The letter noted that two prominent French Churchmen, Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit and Lyon Archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, had to resign under pressure in as many years.

“We therefore ask that the synodality advocated by Pope Francis be implemented to choose our new archbishop,” it said.

The group is led by theologian Anne Soupa, who raised eyebrows with her campaign to be named Lyon archbishop after Barbarin stepped down. 

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