“Pope calls a doctor to care for Paris archdiocese”, read the headlines in France after the Vatican announced that a former physician ordained at the age of 44 had been picked to become the next archbishop of the French capital, writes Tom Heneghan.
Bishop Michel Aupetit of Nanterre, the diocese just west of Paris, was Pope Francis’ unexpected choice following speculation about a surprise appointment of the Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun. But apparently he was not keen to leave the Normandy port city after only two years.
A closer look at the 66-year-old’s rapid rise shows that he represents both continuity with the Parisian hierarchy and a change of pace for France’s most prominent Church position.
He already knows his new archdiocese well. Ordained in 1995, he served in three parishes in Paris before being appointed vicar-general to Archbishop André Vingt-Trois in 2006, auxiliary bishop in 2013 and Bishop of Nanterre the following year.
The new archbishop also stood out thanks to his 11-year career as a general practitioner in a suburb not far from Nanterre cathedral and a specialisation in bioethics, an issue he will surely speak out on as parliament debates a new bioethics law next year. In an interview with KTO Catholic television, he said: “I’ve always served life. First it was people’s lives, now it’s eternal life.”
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