France: In Amiens, Bishop Denies Church Available to Traditionalists

Source: FSSPX News

 

“A recent element intervened in our endeavors to find a place of worship and, unfortunately, we may not remain silent about it. St. Ann’s Church, a large church located in the district of the same name, a short distance from the railway station, has not been used for Catholic worship since January 2004. The owners of the church, the Lazarist Fathers, kindly accepted to place it at our disposal temporarily, while we are seeking  a final solution. We thank them for their attention and kindness towards us, motivated as they were by a real concern for charity and peace. Unfortunately, the bishop of Amiens opposed the decision of the Lazarist Fathers. (…) Since November, we have been out in the street, without any responsibility on the part of the bishop; today, we are obliged to remain outdoors because of his decision.” (Source: www.amiens-catholiques-sdf.com)

In such conditions, we may wonder whether the situation of the diocese of Amiens is so flourishing that the bishop can ignore the Catholic faithful to the traditional Mass. Bishop Bouilleret answered clearly in a recent book:

“The diocese of Amiens numbers 560,000 inhabitants, 783 towns and villages, 1,000 churches and chapels, and 49 new parishes, a result of parish re-organization. Rural tradition remains strong, and industry is important. In the town of Amiens and its suburbs live about one third of the inhabitants of the diocese.

The figures for religious practice are very low: 2% inhabitants attend Sunday Mass. On the other hand, 33% children go to catechism classes, and people are rather close to the Church, culturally speaking.

“At the beginning of the 20th century, the diocese numbered between 800 and 900 priests; they are 110 today, or less than one priest for 5,000 people. Priests’ average age is 70 years, and only 13 priests are below 50. All the parishes are under the responsibility of a priest. However, half of them do not have a resident priest in charge of the parish. (…)

The journalist interviewing Bishop Bouilleret asked him what the attitude of the faithful should be confronted with this dire lack of priests.

“The diminution of the number of priests may give rise to some concern among the inhabitants, but I think that, for all that, they do not feel abandoned. Then a new character is emerging: the pastoral leader (with responsibility for a mission: catechism, catechumenate…). He is someone you can contact in case of need. However, there are no parishes without a priest. If the modality of his presence has changed, the parish still remains in the care of the priest, even if he works together with a local team.”

What is the future of the diocese of Amiens, according to its pastor?

“Appointed bishop four years ago, I had the joy to ordain two priests upon my arrival. The next year, I ordained another priest. Presently, three seminarians are studying in Issy-les-Moulineaux. So all is not lost! (sic)

For the future, we are at a stage both of reflection and of prevision. We need to deepen pastoral ministry for vocations, and at the same time foresee that our Church will soon live with very few priests. Consequently, we are setting up a more responsible small team in each parish, with a pastoral coordinator.” (Interview published in Ainsi sont-ils, de jeunes prêtres témoignent (Such they are, Young Priests Give Their Testimonies) by Cyril Douillet, 2007, CLD editions, p. 63-64)

In this dramatic context, when Bishop Bouilleret can only manage the shortage of priests, the diocesan bulletin of Amiens, its March 2008 issue, attempted to support him through the pen of Laurence Lefèvre, a journalist. “The attacks from the media which Bishop Bouilleret had to sustain in the conflict with members of the Society of Saint Pius X need a clarification and to be seen under another light.” And at the end of the article,  he bluntly mentioned another shortage which is a source of concern for the diocesan authorities: “Yes, in this conflict, our bishop has been calumniated, and it is high time that we rally behind him. How? By taking an active and generous part in the campaign for the “Denier du culte.” (Ed. In France, Catholics have to support their priests and bishops, as the State gives no financial subsidies. Catholics give a yearly offering to the diocese, called “Denier du culte.”