“Between them and me there is sometimes the thickness of an opportunity. ” Bruno Lachnitt has never forgotten this enigmatic remark of an old prison chaplain who has died today, who thereby showed his concern not to put the detainees too far away. “The prison, by isolating them, is already taking care of it”, completes the one who has just donned the habit of national Catholic prison chaplain following Father Jean-François Penhouët. A cloth “A little too big” for him, specifies from the outset this 62-year-old deacon from Lyon, clear eyes and relaxed outfit.
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Met in Paris on the day he took up his post, Wednesday 1er September, this married man, father of three adult daughters, appears more willing to discuss his mission as chaplain, started at the Lyon-Corbas remand center in 2013, than on his new national responsibilities. These will take him two days a week to the capital, in particular to the headquarters of the Conference of French Bishops (CEF), without having to leave his work in Lyon-Corbas or his home in Villeurbane. With around 700 chaplains, the Catholic religion has the largest of the seven penitentiary chaplaincies.
Multiplying the quotes, Bruno Lachnitt describes his state of mind as follows: “It is the trust that others place in us that shows us the way. “ Signed Mauriac, the sentence applies to him but also, of course, to the prisoners he accompanies. It even became the motto of the project “Crazy” he initiated in 2015: every summer, he takes a small group of prisoners to walk from Puy to Conques on the road to Compostela. 200 kilometers in twelve days, while the leaves usually do not exceed three days.
“See what is best in the other”
Confidence: the key word of his mission as chaplain. “But who says trust does not say naivety, nor is it a principled conviction that there is good in everyone. ” Pause. “When I meet an inmate, my role is to see what is best in him. And this must be aroused! Its not always easy. But if we don’t do it, if we don’t restore self-esteem in these people, then we program recidivism. “
Before “Dive”, eight years ago, in the prison world – the first years, the chaplain spent 20 to 30 hours a week in a cell – Bruno Lachnitt had a winding journey, stitched together “Road trips”. A point in common with many of the detainees. Does it help him relate to them? “Maybe… Anyway, since I’ve been a chaplain, I feel that all the threads of my life are connected. “
After spending a few months in a Benedictine monastery and then in the seminary, Bruno Lachnitt discovered the ATD Fourth World movement at the age of 20. Five years later, he entered the Society of Jesus“To live there the preferential option for the poor, in the continuity of ATD”. Believing that he could not do without learning manual skills in order to meet the poorest, the young Jesuit trained in mechanics. He will work four years at Peugeot, in Poissy (Yvelines), while training in theology at the Sèvres Center. But the gap is widening between these two aspects of his religious life.
At 34, he left the Company. At 35, he married a young humanities teacher. Soon parents, the couple left Paris for the Rhône-Alpes region, where Bruno Lachnitt would work for Secours Catholique (2000-2009), before heading the Regional Mission for Information on Exclusion (2009-2013). Then, no longer deeming coherent to“Being paid € 3,000 net per month to talk about people at RSA”, the one who became deacon in 2006 opens up about it to his vicar general. He offers him to become a full-time prison chaplain.
“The prison has become the place of my faith”, affirms the one who went to Compostela with his family and now walks towards Assisi with his wife. Resolutely committed, his faith is also what pushes him to be severe against the “Ambient security discourse”, chronic prison overcrowding and the French judicial system, when it “Reduces detainees to their criminal act”.
Convinced that, to testify to‘”A God who was stripped”, one must agree to strip oneself, Bruno Lachnitt insists on the need, for a prison chaplain, to “Consent to impotence”, which can be “Trying”. “Apart from that, there is no typical profile”, he smiles.