24 April 2023, The Tablet

Beleaguered Strasbourg archbishop quits amid complaints



Beleaguered Strasbourg archbishop quits amid complaints

Archbishop Luc Ravel.
Abaca Press/Alamy Live News

Beleaguered Strasbourg archbishop Luc Ravel has handed in his resignation on 20 April, another French Church leader accused of not smelling enough like his sheep.

“Peace being the supreme good,” he wrote to Pope Francis, “I present my resignation to the Holy Father, for whom I pray every day.”

It has not been peaceful in Strasbourg. Ravel, 65, has been criticised as isolated and authoritarian, more interested in his standing in Paris than his pastors and flock in Alsace.

For example, he skipped the Chrism Mass last year, his annual meeting with about 400 priests from around the eastern French region, to welcome President Emmanuel Macron during the latter’s reelection campaign there.

The archbishop, who entered the prestigious Academy of Moral and Political Sciences last year, was also the only French bishop to openly promise his vote to Macron. All others remained neutral.

Appointed in 2016 and often in Paris, the former military bishop so concerned the Vatican that it conducted an apostolic visitation last summer “regarding pastoral government” after he fired the archdiocesan treasurer only weeks before his retirement.

The report of the three-week visitation has remained secret, but Ravel was called to meet Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops – a sign to submit his resignation to Rome and to the French head of state, according to the terms of the concordat still in force in Alsace.

When he hesitated, according to La Croix, he was summoned by Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, whom he avoided pleading poor health. He was also absent from the French bishops’ spring plenary in Lourdes this year.

Ravel also welcomed traditionalist priests from Fréjus-Toulon, another diocese under Vatican scrutiny.  The Missionaries of Divine Mercy work to evangelise Muslims, at odds with Strasbourg’s long tradition of interfaith dialogue.

The Paris daily quoted a Vatican source as condemning Ravel’s “scorched earth” policy and saying: “He acts like a businessman doing deals, and not a man of God.” In his statement, Ravel said his fight against clerical sexual abuse led to his downfall

In recent weeks, Ravel fired a popular auxiliary bishop, whom the Vatican reportedly planned to name as apostolic administrator, and his vicar general, and accused his chancellor of sexual misconduct.  

His abrupt decisions and final resignation recalled that of Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, who stepped  down in late 2021.

By contrast, Aupetit’s successor Archbishop Laurent Ulrich celebrated the 12 April Paris funeral of the late “rebel bishop” Jacques Gaillot with several bishops including the current prelate of Évreux, the diocese the enfant terrible was stripped of in 1995. Like Pope Francis on meeting him in 2015, he called Gaillot “our brother”.

 


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