Dear Brother Bishops and Apostolic and Diocesan Administrators,
Dear brothers and sisters invited from the dioceses of France,
Dear members of the General Secretariat
Dear Directors of National Services,
So we meet again this morning in Lourdes for the Spring Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of France. We are happy to be able to do this, even if we still need to maintain some health caution, if we want to be sure to celebrate the coming Holy Week without worry.
We find ourselves in a very different atmosphere from that of last November. We lived intense hours there, we took a historic spiritual step there. The crying child hanging on the facade of our hemicycle reminded us, if need be, as we returned to these places, of the suffering of people whose trust priests have abused and to whom they have inflicted trauma sustainable interiors. The day of prayer for victims of sexual assault in the Church which was celebrated in France for the first time on the third Sunday of Lent allowed many of us to lead with the priests and the faithful of their diocese a time of conversion, of recognition, of asking God and the victims for forgiveness, of truth and justice. We will provide an update on the implementation of the measures we took in November.
On this first day and a half, we want to conclude three years of work dedicated to the conversions called for by the ecological crisis in which our humanity is engaged. In July 2019, the newly elected permanent council wondered what trace our time would leave in history. With the revelation of the terrible extent of the abuses, the awareness of the limits of our earth and the degradation of the “common home” due to the confinement of humanity in a technical-economic paradigm has seemed be the determining fact. Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato si’ published in July 2015, raised a strong and original voice that opened up a deep spiritual understanding of this crisis. The encyclical wonderfully unites ecological question and social question, it makes ecological stakes stakes of justice and fraternity between humans, it commits to renew the paradigms which control our representations and our actions. It draws from the contemporary sciences a lucid vision of the situation and the paths to the future, but it draws even more from the Christian tradition the audacity to call for a leap forward from the needs and expectations of the poorest. It makes the earth look not as a reservoir of resources from which humans draw what they want but as the sign of a common destiny not only of humanity but of all beings, where the call of God is discovered. mutual hospitality and love for all.
The permanent council had then imagined a first working assembly on the challenges of the ecological crisis by introducing a dose of synodality, each bishop being called upon to invite two people to accompany him. We were shaken and moved by the words addressed to us in November 2019, and the assembly voted in principle to devote a day and a half of each of its meetings for three years to this immense theme. We understood in fact that it touched our announcement of the good news of salvation. One of the first responders had taken up for us Jonah’s call: “Another three days and Nineveh will be destroyed”, specifying to us that the Hebrew said rather: “Another three days and Nineveh will be upset”, an upheaval which could have been achieved by ruin and which was realized, according to the biblical book, by conversion.
The successive confinements forced us to give up one of our sequences, to live two others in videoconferences, the November sequence: “Clameur de la terre, Clameur des poor” was an oasis in our reception of the Ciase report, we have not been able to deal with human ecology as we would have liked.
Having reached the end of these three years, we will conclude. Some of those who have given us their contribution or their testimony over the years are with us. I thank them on your behalf for responding to our invitation then and now. To conclude is not to put an end. On the contrary. We are going to work on the commitments that we could make, and we are counting on you, our diocesan guests, and also on you who have taught us, to reflect with us on what they could be. We will start from a resumption of our previous assemblies; we will receive, we will talk about it this afternoon, a teaching from a Protestant theologian, Martin Kopp, and an Orthodox theologian, Fr. Sollogoub. The Orthodox have long preceded us on these subjects and the Protestants are also strongly committed. It is a joy: all the Christian denominations allow themselves to be questioned by the fate of our land and the specific responsibility of humanity. Our afternoon and our evening will therefore be strongly ecumenical, with, after dinner, a time of prayer and a time of friendly encounter. Tomorrow morning, we will work out together commitments of various levels, which we will give to God during the mass presided over by the nuncio before going out to proclaim a solemn commitment, nourished by our common work. The bishops, if they wish, will conclude their assembly next Friday by voting on a text of proclamation of faith in God the creator and savior which will be put to their vote.
We enter this assembly also in communion with the painful ordeals of the war waged in Ukraine. Today’s Mass will be presided over by Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, Administrator of the Eparchy of France, Belgium and Switzerland, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He will celebrate it in the rite proper to his Church, thus associating us with the supplication of the Ukrainian people, for himself and for the Russian people. We will also try to be in videoconference for a while with the Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevshuk, and we are also offering a fast or at least a light meal on Thursday evening.
Good work to all and thank you for your part.