Breath of fresh air for France

France’s new bishops’ conference chair, Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort of Reims, is a well-recognised theologian who is highly appreciated for his analytical skills and is liked by lay people.

His intellectual standing and realistic manner of tackling problems without excessive nostalgia for the past are said to have contributed to his election.

Speaking after his appointment was announced last week,  the Archbishop said he is determined to handle issues pragmatically and promised to avoid using excessively churchy language.

“We will never go back to the village society that existed before 1965 where people went to Mass out of a sense of duty.

“Today, social relations are governed mainly by the search for pleasure. We have a duty to evangelise this new world.”

Speaking of the Church’s sex abuse crisis, he said: “We need to face the fact that too many priests have behaved badly with young people without anyone noticing or that they were treated as inoffensive once their misdeeds became known.”

All France’s bishops agree that it’s important to move forward from that position, he said.

Last year he published a much discussed article entitled “Que nous est-il arrivé? De la sidération à l’action devant les abus sexuels dans l’Église” (What has happened to us? From bewilderment to action on sex abuse in the Church).

In the article he sought to analyse the reasons for the crimes and suggested various legal and pastoral responses.

At the end of February this year, after a series of damaging revelations about sex abuse were circulated, he wrote a letter to Catholics in the Reims diocese.

He told them of his own “disgust and discouragement” that the revelations of “concealed” evil had caused.

“God has not abandoned his Church but, on the contrary, is working to purify it, including from the evil that exists within it and that it had obstinately refused to see,” he wrote.

Since his appointment as archbishop of Reims, he has also faced the problems that many of his confrères have experienced, particularly the dwindling number of priests and the collapse of the traditional “parish network.”

In addition to chairing the bishops’ conference, de Moulins-Beaufort is the head of the French bishops’ conference doctrinal commission, a member of the executive committee of the Cardinal Henri de Lubac International Associate, and is an editorial board member for two significant journals – Communio and the Nouvelle Revue Théologique (NRT).

Well-liked by the lay people with whom he worked in the Archdiocese of Paris, he is known for his even temperament and easy manner, as well as his sense of humour.

“I have never seen him get angry, or at least it took a lot for that to happen!” a former colleague commented.

He is “great news for the French Church,” and a “well-balanced person” even though some may “find him a bit stiff.”

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News category: World.

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