In Paris, the Saint-Merry church has a new pastoral team to appease the crisis

Impossible mission

The Saint-Merry church, next to the Center Pompidou, in the heart of Paris, will have a new pastoral team from 1er September. The Archbishop of Paris, Mgr Michel Aupetit, entrusted the animation of the parish to the community of Sant’Egidio, a lay community founded in 1968 in Rome and which has since spread. This decision aims to calm the crisis that began in February, when the Archbishop withdrew his mission at the Halles-Beaubourg Pastoral Center (CPHB), linked to the parish while being distinct from it. Bishop Aupetit criticized the CPHB for an aggressive and confrontational attitude towards the parish priest of Saint-Merry, who threw in the towel in January.

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Open dialogue

Founded in 1975 in the then rapidly changing district of Beaubourg and Les Halles, the CPHB was intended as an attempt, for the Catholic Church, to reconnect with sections of society that it saw growing further and further away. Dialogue with contemporary art circles, aid for migrants, reception of LGBT people, fight against AIDS: the center has become, over the years, the symbol of open, even “left” Catholicism. Its mode of operation was also intended to be innovative by establishing a co-responsibility of the laity and the clerics, including in the preparation and the liturgy of Mass at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, which attracted the faithful far beyond the parish.

Word of the Gospel

The community of Sant’Egidio, whose vocation is “Prayer, the poor, peace”, believes that it can fit into that of the parish. “We know well this district open to the poor, to foreigners, at the crossroads of geographical and existential peripheries, explains Valérie Régnier, president of the community in France, using the words of Pope Francis. We started praying and marauding there fifteen years ago. “ Committed to helping migrants, the community intends to maintain “The doors wide open” of this “Place of spiritual renewal open to all”. Two priests trained by Sant’Egidio in Rome will settle in Saint-Merry.

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Extramural anchoring

The choice of Sant’Egidio seems clever to some, but it does not convince the CPHB team, renamed Saint-Merry-hors-les-murs. “This in no way resolves the questions revealed by the crisis, in terms of plurality, diversity, co-responsibility in the church”, explains Guy Aurenche, member of the team for twenty years. The group did “No intention to be marginalized”. Deprived of a place, he fell back on digital tools. He intends to contribute to the synodal debate which will open in the fall within the Catholic Church at the initiative of the Pope. He will soon find a “Place of anchorage” with a mass celebrated one Sunday a month at Notre-Dame-de-l’Espérance, rue de la Roquette, in the 11e arrondissement.