Laurent Ulrich in the footsteps of Pope Francis

There were almost 2000 Parisians who came to welcome their new archbishop with a palpable emotion, but also, for many of them, having come for the first time to hear him, meet him and try to form an idea. After presiding over Vespers in the open air in the courtyard of Notre-Dame de Paris, Laurent Ulrich, successor to Michel Aupetit – who left in December 2021 in a climate of turmoil after Pope Francis accepted his resignation – took the path of church of Saint-Sulpice.

Under the vaults of a packed church were other French and Belgian bishops, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, former Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, the Apostolic Nuncio to Paris, Celestino Migliore and Borys Gudziak, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Philadelphia Archparchy of Ukrainians.

But also politicians and elected officials, including the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, the President of the Île-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, as well as representatives of other religions, such as the rector of the great mosque of Paris, Chems-Eddine Hafiz. Finally, note the presence of the president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase) Jean-Marc Sauvé.

The portrait of a respectful man, capable of daring

At the beginning of the Mass, it is a woman who takes the floor, in the person of Virginie Mulliez. This person responsible for the pastoral care of health in the diocese of Lille gives a brief portrait of the person with whom she had the opportunity to work for several years: “With a very reserved approach, very respectful of people and institutions, also capable of a good dose of audacity”, she sketches in a few chosen words. Interesting terms if we take into account the fact that, among the apprehensions expressed at the time of the appointment, the fear that it was a transition option rather than an action option arose regularly.

The former collaborator highlights the attention of the former Archbishop of Lille to the sick and people with disabilities, but also to the various people involved in the life of the Church, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, lay volunteers or on mission. “especially women, to whom I am very sensitive”, She adds. These remarks are widely greeted by applause, but also by some – rare – throat clearings.

A very Pope Francis approach

The homily is decidedly Bergoglian in style, content and references. The new Archbishop of Paris takes up the main principles of action of Pope Francis – “Unity prevails over conflict”, “Time is greater than ‘space’”. He also quotes all brothers, recurrent “to create and allow the development of virtuous processes in terms of peaceful behavior and integral ecology, which respects the most fragile as much as nature”.

Then, in commenting on the arrival of the apostle Paul and his companions in Macedonia, “i.e. in Europe for the first time”, comments on the evolution of Christianity in the Old Continent. saluting the “impressive destiny that will link for so many centuries” Christianity and Europehe immediately qualifies: “Perhaps too much, since the Christian faith will be so assimilated to our customs, to our cultures, that it will witness the domination of the world and provoke the rejections that we know in the modern and contemporary periods. »

An approach there is also much of Pope Francis, who declared in 2016 in an interview with the newspaper The cross : “Christianity’s duty to Europe is service. Erich Przywara, Grand Master of Romano Guardini and Hans Urs von Balthasar, teaches us: the contribution of Christianity to a culture is that of Christ with the washing of feet, that is, service and gift of life. It must not be a colonialist contribution. »

Mission, synodality, fighting abuse, listening to the cry of the poor…

The new archbishop then lists his points of attention, again following in the pope’s footsteps. Mission, synodality, fighting abuse, listening to the cry of the poor, listening, leaving the Church, so many strong intuitions of the present pontificate.

“Develop a missionary spirit and a collaborative spirit, he developed, what is the synodal spirit really, in the Church today, in our diocese of Paris, following the great insights of Cardinal Lustiger, maintained and developed by Cardinal Vingt-Trois and Mons. Aupetit, is to continue to encourage vocations at the service of the Gospel, is to continue the work of charity and solidarity with the most precarious, which so marks the parishes, is to live together in conversations and debates, is to continue to ‘hear the cry of victims of abuse and remedy, as we have already committed to do to restore trust that will do everyone good, is to participate in forums and invite artists, is to listen to the aspirations of our society even when they surprise and worry us, is to listen to the youngest who are already telling us what will be…”

A homily received as “a very clear direction”

A program ? No, replies the Archbishop, as if to avoid possible criticism: “This is not a program, it is an attitude that changes and transforms us, that makes us witnesses of the living Christ in the world where we ourselves live”, he hammers.

And to specify what a righteous Christian attitude might be in the contemporary world: “Believers that we are, we don’t have answers to all the problems that afflict us, but we hope to articulate. And it is not because we have renounced a spirit of domination that developed in previous centuries that we have nothing more to say and, above all, no one to show. »

If it was not a program, then this homily was received by most of the people we were able to interview as “very clear direction”reinforced by the list of models that the new archbishop cited as an example, faces a Church engaged in dialogue with society: “the great founders of the University in the 13th century”including Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, “the great spirituals of the 17th century, who were also great charitable people like São Vicente de Paulo”and yours “successors in 19th century Paris”such as Catherine Labouré, Rosalie Rendu and Frédéric Ozanam.

But also Charles de Foucauld, figure of interreligious dialogue – canonized by Pope Francis a few days earlier – and Pauline Jaricot, leading figure of social Christianity – blessed since May 22, 2022, but also Madeleine Delbrêl.

But it is above all his last words, at the end of the Mass, that affect those present, in particular the people of Lille who made the trip. A phrase borrowed from Saint Francis de Sales “Those who belong to God do not separate when they separate. »

On the patio, on the way out, conversations are going well. Watching a Parisian handing a gift to Georges Pontier, former Archbishop of Marseille and former president of the French Conference of Bishops (CEF), who served in Paris for five months between the departure of Michel Aupetit and Laurent Ulrich, a believer comments: “You see, when Georges Pontier arrived after Michel Aupetit left, we said to ourselves: a guy from the south of Paris, in such a context, it will not be easy! And then he impressed us. He did a lot of good for the diocese. A very pleasant surprise. » He pauses and launches himself, watching Laurent Ulrich from afar, assailed by people wanting to greet him: “Your turn now!” »

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