Thriving priestly community in France asks Vatican for help

priestly community asks Vatican for help

A traditional priestly community, the Community of Saint Martin, has asked the Vatican for help to assess its rapid growth.

The community is a public association of clerics founded by a French priest in 1976 under the patronage of the late Cardinal Giuseppe Siri of Genoa (Italy).

It was established to send its priests, who live in small communities, to support dioceses lacking vocations.

The community has become one of the most prolific sources for priestly vocations in France and currently numbers 168 priests and deacons and is attracting many vocations. It has men in parishes in 28 dioceses throughout France, and many bishops are asking for reinforcements.

According to figures from the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF), the community could represent between 20-40 percent of all the active clergy in the country in 30 years.

The community’s superior, Father Paul Préaux, has asked the Congregation for the Clergy for advice and assistance regarding the management of its growth.

The Vatican office is sending “visitators” to look at the development of the community from the outside and help in discerning its future.

A Vatican source confirmed that it is “a mission of accompaniment in response to a French request and has nothing to do with an inspection”.

Bishop Benoît Bertrand from the French Diocese of Mende will lead the visitation. He will be assisted by three others – Bishop André Marceau, retired ordinary of Nice; Father Matthieu Dupont, rector of the seminary of Versailles; and Sister Anne Descour, provincial of the Religious Sisters of the Assumption.

This is a periodic pastoral visit like the regular visits in the monastic world,” said Bishop Bertrand.

“The Holy See is inviting us to identify and recognise the benefits of the community and perhaps highlight some points for attention,” he noted.

While in the first years of its existence the community experienced some departures, what concerns the leaders today is more related to fatigue and burn-out that can affect a certain generation.

Inter-generational fraternity and the place reserved for the older priests, soon to be in their eighties, are also concerns.

“What support is there for elderly priests who have given their whole lives?” wondered Préaux. “I listen to what the pope says about our elders in his catechesis,” he added.

“We will be able to help the Community of Saint Martin to fit better into the Church of France,” said Bishop Bertrand.

He and his team will visit the 40 places where Saint Martin priests are currently serving and will consult with the local bishops. They will also carry out a visitation at the Community’s seminary in Evron.

“It is a question of supporting the community with vigilance and benevolence,” said Bishop Bertrand.


La Croix International



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