French Catholics seek to integrate the poor

Blue and yellow flowers in the colours of the Ukrainian flag protruded here and there from the bags and baskets as nearly 80 members of the diocesan pastoral council of Rouen gathered on March 26 for a full day of meetings dedicated to preparations for the Synod of Bishops’ assembly on Synodality.

Apr 22, 2022


By Malo Tresca
Blue and yellow flowers in the colours of the Ukrainian flag protruded here and there from the bags and baskets as nearly 80 members of the diocesan pastoral council of Rouen gathered on March 26 for a full day of meetings dedicated to preparations for the Synod of Bishops’ assembly on Synodality. The flowers were brought to decorate one of the vast rooms of the diocesan centre. They were meant to be a “sign of communion” with the wartorn population of Ukraine, just one day after Pope Francis consecrated the country and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“Today marks the last day of the synodal process, but the process will continue,” began Fr Alexandre Gérault, vicar general of the diocese, which is in the heart Normandy. “We wanted to review this experience with you, the artisans of this process in your parishes,” the priest said before insisting on the need, at the heart of this new meeting, to take into greater account the “words of the poorest”.

A “day of fraternity”
After five meetings with leaders of associations in contact with the poor — those in precarious situations, prisoners, the homeless, young people from the suburbs, etc. — a decision had already been made to hold a festive event with them on June 11, a “day of fraternity” in front of Rouen Cathedral. “They are often fatalistic, feel invisible, and tell us that the Church is too much caught up in itself,” said Christiane Rousseau, a volunteer with an association that is affiliated with the St Vincent de Paul Society. “Based on their expectations, this June 11 event has not finished being developed,” said Maïté Massot, diocesan delegate for the synod, before inviting the assembly to the various workshops planned for the day. In room 104, six people — including a priest from a rural area — met to reflect on two themes: “How did we listen to the voices of the poorest in the synodal process?” and “What proposals could we make to better integrate them into our communities?”

Do not try to attract the poor at all costs
The objective was to produce three key ideas, in three sentences, that could then be presented to the rest of the assembly. “I don’t really like the term ‘poor’, I prefer those of precariousness or fragility, which everyone can relate to,” says Marie-Odile, a retired woman involved with the St Vincent de Paul Society. “I am wary of this Church that wants to ‘attract the poorest at all costs’... For me, it is, above all, a matter of meeting them,” added Yves, an official of the Normandy Institute of Religious Sciences (INSR) for the Rouen area. Priority projects quickly emerge: “recognise our poverty” — by encouraging this awareness through sharing groups, meetings, etc. — promote inclusion of the poorest in the Church — by abandoning any overhanging attitude — and finally, daring to take this fight to the political level. And on this last point, the discussion went well.

Weighing in on realities
Yves said he is “revolted” by “today’s vision of migrant quotas”, which has become a major talking point in France’s presidential election. “We have our work cut out for us,” he said. “If we remain only in the domain of faith, we will not be able to influence the realities that we want to change. We must dare to question our mayors, our prefects, the communities,” Yves continued. His observation was echoed by some of the other groups during their presentations in the morning session. Then, in the afternoon, there was a new discussion on the synodal experience. The team charged with synthesising all the presentations gave its preliminary report. It had to send a final report to the dioceses before April 16. Shortly before 5.00pm, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen closed the day. “Today, in particular, three words that have been associated with the Synod have frequently emerged: participation, communion and mission,” he noted gently. “I feel that we are on this path, and that the Lord is really walking with us,” he said. --LCI (https:// international.la-croix.com)

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