Friday, June 07, 2024

Vatican investigates conservative French bishop

In France, the Vatican is investigating another diocese with a decidedly conservative bishop. 

However, according to Bishop Marc Aillet, the investigation into the diocese of Bayonne, Lescar and Oloron, which begins this week, is expressly not an apostolic visitation, but a "fraternal visit" by Archbishop Antoine Hérouard, who has been appointed by Rome. 

Originally, the diocese had not given a reason. In a video message, the bishop explained the visitation ordered by the Holy See at the end of May with complaints from the faithful that had been received in Rome. 

These concerned the faith, the liturgy, his leadership style, finances and the question of the relationship between the Church and society. 

Clergy and laity would be consulted on this. The bishop is looking forward to the visit and supports it: "But my only task is to pray."

Among other things, the "fraternal visit" is about the bishop's dealings with the "Alliance des cœurs unis" ("Alliance of United Hearts"), which is not recognised by the Church and whose founder is said to have received private revelations and mystical visions. 

According to Hérouard, the aim of his investigation is not to categorise these messages: "It is rather to see how the bishop relates to the 'Alliance des cœurs unis': is he correctly positioned here, or do his actions raise questions?" 

In addition to the "Alliance" he promotes, Aillet himself also belongs to the priestly community "Communauté Saint-Martin", which observers categorise as conservative identitarian Catholicism. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Aillet attracted attention with a press release advocating anti-vaccination positions.

Previously vicar general in the scandalous diocese of Fréjus-Toulon

Before his appointment as Bishop of Bayonne in 2008, the 67-year-old was Vicar General in the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon under Bishop Dominique Rey. Rey was appointed coadjutor bishop last November following a visitation of his diocese. 

A coadjutor bishop was placed at his side who, among other things, is responsible for the clergy and education administration, religious orders and communities. 

Conflicts arose in Fréjus-Toulon due to the establishment of conservative clerical communities. stop ordinations and religious vows. There appear to be similar conflicts in Bayonne. 

According to French media reports, Aillet has pursued a decidedly conservative course since his appointment as bishop and has promoted spiritual communities, including traditionalist ones. 

Archbishop Hérouard had already organised the apostolic visitation in Fréjus-Toulon in Fréjus-Toulon.

Hérouard told the AFP news agency that after the initial talks at the beginning of June and the beginning of July, he would submit a report to the Holy See, on the basis of which further action would be decided in Rome. Measures could include directives or a formal visitation. 

"But we are not there yet," emphasised the archbishop.