With the Saint-Merry center, the fruits of a pastoral experience on the margins

And you welcomed me. Contributions for a Living Church

by Guy Aurenche

Salvator, 182 p., € 18

In the spring of 2021, Mgr Michel Aupetit, then Archbishop of Paris, decided to put an end to the experience of the Saint-Merry pastoral center. Wanted by Cardinal Marty in 1975, to go “to the borders”, this center attached to the parish would have been the site of incessant latent conflicts. Following this closure decision judged by some as “Authoritarian and brutal”, causing a petition of 12,000 signatures, we could have feared some settling of scores. However, the book proposed and edited by Guy Aurenche, former president of Acat and CCFD, is intended to be constructive. In fact, it is more of a “golden book” of the deeds and gestures of the Saint-Merry center, told by some twenty contributors, and not the least, whether it is the priest and sociologist Nicolas de Bremond of ‘Ars, of the Jesuit François Euvé, of the economist Elena Lasida or of Mgr Albert Rouet, Archbishop Emeritus of Poitiers.

“For more than forty-five years, the pastoral center has tried to meet contemporary society with its contradictions, its limits, its hesitations but also its riches”, sums up Guy Aurenche. From this experience, the authors draw several reflections on the co-responsibility between priests and laity even in the liturgy or even the unconditional welcome of people: “This place is necessary by the support it brings to the ‘proscribed'”, writes an anonymous hand among the many testimonies received when the center closed.

“The unexpected was the everyday”

Dreaming of a “Church of fraternities” which makes accessible “The Gospel in the city”, the contributors open up pastoral perspectives, the fruit of this experimentation in line with the Vatican Council II. “In Saint-Merry, the unexpected was everyday. Constant renewal. The burning research, insists trainer Agnès Charlemagne. What doors does closing the center open? “, while the ecclesial adventure of Saint-Merry-hors-les-murs wants to be part of the process of the Synod on synodality.

→ READ. Synod on Synodality: the diocesan phase extended until August 2022

It remains to overcome the misunderstandings to pursue the dream: “I dream of a Church in search, which seeks fraternity as the primary alms of recognition, wrote Mgr Rouet. The Church must decentralize, that is to say that she regroups in small units on a human scale. (…) small multiple sets within which one can at least know his brother. “


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