Rebel bishop Jacques Gaillot has died

France’s “rebel bishop” Jacques Gaillot, who was removed from his Normandy diocese of Évreux by Pope John Paul II in 1995 after 13 years died of cancer on 12 April aged 87, The Tablet reports.

Transferred by the Vatican to Partenia, an extinct ancient diocese in Algeria that became his internet home, he was received “as a brother” by Pope Francis 20 years later.

As a bishop, he was a strong supporter of the YCW and other Specialised Catholic Action movements. In 2000, he was a guest speaker at the 75th anniversary congress of the International YCW in Brussels.

“In 2009, he came to share and discuss with young people (at a YCW national assembly),” recalled former French YCW national president Stéphane Haar.

“His words, which were full of love and evangelical demand, struck many jocists.

“This should be a Church of the marginalised, not a Church that marginalises,” he told his farewell Mass in Évreux almost two decades before Pope Francis spoke about a Church “going to the peripheries”.

Reflecting his popularity, 20,000 people flocked to the Norman town for the Mass from France, Germany and the Benelux countries. Four French bishops attended it.

He said his 28 months of military service in Algeria in the late 1950s turned him into an activist. “Excess violence pushed me to non-violence,” he said.

After studies in Rome and ordination, he spend the next decade teaching in regional seminaries. He took over Évreux diocese in 1982.

Gaillot was soon defending conscientious objectors, opposing nuclear weapons and supporting anti-apartheid activists. He tried to convince his brother bishops to decide that married men could be ordained priests.

As Church criticism of his activism grew, Gaillot called the head of the French bishops an “ayatollah” and compared the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops to the East German Stasi police.

After his dismissal, the outspoken bishop moved in temporarily with Paris squatters, published about two dozen books and spoke frequently at conferences or in interviews.

As bishop of Partenia, he continued to work for the rights of the excluded. With Albert Jacquard and Léon Schwartzenberg, he founded the association “Droits devant!” to support undocumented immigrants and Roma, whom he helped to house in gymnasiums or squats in conjunction with the “Droit au logement” (DAL – the Right to Housing).

A defender of the Palestinian cause, he denounced arms sales and nuclear testing (he embarked on a Greenpeace boat to Tahiti), visited prisoners, and more.

He sided with homosexuals, divorced and remarried Catholics, condom users afraid of Aids and other “sidelined” people.

In 2015, he met with Pope Francis who urged him to keep up his activism for migrants and refugees, telling him he was a “gift” for the Church.


Tom Heneghan, French ‘rebel bishop’ Jacques Gaillot dies at 87 (The Tablet)

Claire Lesegretain, France’s “rebel bishop”, Jacques Gaillot, dies at age 87 (La Croix International)

Jean Boulier’s “I was a Red Priest” and the Holocaust


In 1977 Father Jean Boulier (1894-1980), a French priest, wrote an autobiography, J’étais un prêtre rouge. Like his American Catholic contemporary, Dorothy Day (1897-1980), he was on the left. And like Day, who is being made a “saint” by Rome, Fr Boulier is in a similar process, but it is Israel (Yad Vashem) that is considering conferring its equivalent honor, “Righteous among the Nations.”

As part of honoring Fr Boulier, an English translation of his autobiography, I was a Red Priest, is now being published. As a red priest, his book described his dealings with the French Communist Party (PCF), priest workers, Eastern Europe, the post-war peace movement, Vatican II, Jesuits, Thomism, liberation theology, liturgy, ecumenism, mysticism and the church hierarchy. His thinking and actions paralleled those of his American counterpart Day, as did the reaction of the civil and religious authorities.

It was his politics in World War II, however, which were on the side of the Jews and against the Nazi and Vichy government that both endeared him to Israel and pushed him permanently into the communist camp. As his book summarised, in 1938 he was appointed to be the pastor of Sainte-Devote Parish in Monaco. In June 1940, France fell to the Nazis and the independent principality of Monaco followed France.


Toby Terrar, An Autobiography of A Red Priest During World War II (Social Policy)


Jean Boulier, I was a red priest (CW Publishers)

Reaching the peripheries: France’s Worker Mission

Next week we are holding another special event to look at the work of the French Catholic Church’s Mission Ouvrière, the worker mission established 80 years ago to reach out to working people.

Many of us will remember Pope Pius XI’s famous lament to Cardijn that “the greatest tragedy of the 19th century was the loss of the working class to the Church.”

Others will recall the famous book, France, Pays de mission – France a mission country -, written by YCW chaplains, Henri Godin and Yvan Daniel, which showed the extent to which the Church had lost touch with the masses.

Since then, Pope Francis has reframed that mission as a mission to the “periphery,” meaning reaching those people beyond the reach of the Church’s traditional structures.

And this is the work of the French Mission Ouvrière, which continues to provide a framework for the YCW, the Christian Workers Movement, a children’s movement, workers priests and a whole range of apostolic groups.

Could it offer a model for Australia today as the Church seeks to implement the decisions of the recent Plenary Council?

To discuss this and other issues, we’ve invited Jackie Hocquet and Bernard Schricke, both former YCW leaders, now working with Caritas France, to explain the Worker Mission model.

Read more

The French Worker Mission (translated document)

Mission Ouvrière Nationale (French)


Thursday 22 September 2022, 7pm AEST


Movements pioneered alternative seminary formation

France’s University Formation Group (GFU), which allows young men to combine secular and seminary studies, is celebrating its 50th anniversary, La Croix International reports.

This is a made-to-measure pathway for students who wish to become priests but without abandoning their existing studies. It was launched fifty years ago this year under the auspices of France’s Mission Ouvrière (Worker Mission) and the Catholic Action movements.

“At that time in 1967, the number of seminarians was in free fall and the bishops had decided to close down the minor seminaries,” recalls Fr Emmanuel Goulard, superior of the GFU seminary.

“The seminary was therefore founded as a place of discernment and initial formation for students while they continued their university studies,” he explains.

This was a specifically French innovation that has continued to develop over the course of the last half century.

There were around one hundred such students during the early 1980s when Lille vicar general, Fr Bruno Cazin, who is also a medical doctor, took this path.

Now there are seventeen GFU students across France with four or five new students beginning the program each year.

Fr Cazin, a specialist in hematology [the study and treatment of blood], is convinced that the pathway continues to offer great value.

“It was while working in a hospital that I really came to understand Christ and the Gospel and that is why I stayed,” he explains.

“The GFU pathway also allows students or young professionals to test their vocation by sharing the daily life of people.”

To sum up, an extra muros seminarian fully combines seminary and student life until, after completing their engineering, philosophy or other secular studies, begin the classical theological studies leading to the priesthood.


Alternative seminary formation celebrates golden jubilee (La Croix International)

Séminaristes et étudiants, deux vies en une (La Croix)


Diocese of Amiens