Electronic “Celebret” Card for Deacons, Priests, and Bishops in France

Source: FSSPX News

The Church abandons paper. Make way for the universal, connected and “tamper-proof” “celebret.” Bishops already have them. By the end of 2023, all French priests and deacons, “i.e. approximately between 17,000 and 18,000 ordained ministers” will have in their pocket a laminated identity document in a credit card-sized format.

As already provided for in canon law, the latter must identify themselves when they leave their diocese, in shrines, at the entrance to churches, or during major events such as World Youth Day (WYD).

The Celebret

Issued by a bishop or the superior of a religious community, this document attests to the ability “of a priest to celebrate the sacraments: Mass, baptism, confession, marriage, extreme unction, and to preach,” explains Msgr. Alexandre Joly, Bishop of Troyes and vice-president of the bishops’ conference of France (CEF). It specifies whether the priest can supervise groups of young people or be left alone with a minor even in visible space.

The celebret may be requested during a trip outside the diocese, in France or abroad, in shrines or parishes, or on major events such as World Youth Days (WYD), to provide proof that a priest is in good standing to give the sacraments, and is subject to no restriction impeding his sacramental faculties.

A Dematerialized Celebret

A decision made by the bishops gathered in a Plenary Assembly in November 2021, the creation of a national model contributes to the homogenization of the document between the dioceses and religious communities, as well as providing a means of updating authorizations and restrictions in real time. It aims at preventing impostors (false priests or deacons) from continuing to act to the detriment of the faithful and the sacraments, by creating false celebrets.

Concretely, it is a personal identification card, of a format identical to the new identity cards, which gives access to the celebret via a QR code snapped with a smartphone. This card has no validity limit, except in the event of a change of place of incardination. The following information appears on the card: a photo; incardination information; the priest’s first name, surname, date and place of birth; and information about his ordination.

It also includes a unique personal identifier (ID), and a QR code. From now on, people welcoming “priests, rectors or sacristans,” will be able to check the status of a priest by snapping the QR code printed on the document. This link goes to a “personnel” page listed in a national electronic directory.

Bishops should ensure that the information is updated annually or “as soon as a sanction or limitation is pronounced.” The pages are displayed in three colors. Green (no limitations), orange (limitations), or red (no celebrating). If orange appears, the detail can be displayed, via a confidential code sent to the priest holding the card. If he refuses to open access to his space: “He will not be able to celebrate anything at all,” warns Msgr. Joly.

The Bishop of Troyes recognizes that it is a “change of culture in the Church” in terms of control. With the old fashioned paper celebrets is was possible to commit identity fraud and “negligence” –  “It did happen.” The new procedure “will take five seconds and it will become as natural as presenting your healthcare card,” underlines Ambroise Laurent, deputy secretary of the CEF.