More than 4,500 people have signed in support of a female theologian’s bid to be the next Archbishop of Lyon.

– Support for Anne Soupa’s initiative: “We appreciate her guts and her frankness”

The grand show of appreciation for Anne Soupa, the 73-year-old biblical scholar, theologian, journalist, writer and gender equality campaigner, appeared on the new website within hours of that initiative going online.

Last week, Soupa applied to succeed abuse-tainted Cardinal Philippe Barbarin at the head of the French archdiocese of Lyon, handing in to that end a manifesto, resume and application letter to the Pope’s ambassador in Paris.

Soupa’s push to be considered for Church office was immediately met with approval in large sectors of the Catholic world, not least of all among the organisers of the website supporting her candidacy, who are inviting people all over the world – Catholic or not – to back her application.

“In a church in France or elsewhere, long ago or less, we were baptized. Years later, each one of us has a different relationship to the Church: practising or not, invested in a parish or not, with a living faith or at odds with it”, the organisers of the pro-Anne Soupa signature drive wrote in a message on their website.

“Of the one billion baptized who make up the Catholic Church in the world, half are women”, the organisers continued, proclaiming that “today we support, criticize or are indifferent to the action of the Church”, but “we are sensitive to Anne Soupa’s candidacy as Archbishop of Lyon”.

Soupa’s “long-standing commitment and her work are well known and we appreciate her words on the place and role of women, her guts and her frankness. We support her approach”, the signature collectors concluded.

The petition organisers said that all of the signatures collected on the website – which already feature the names of several prominent Catholic figures in France and beyond – will be forwarded to Pope Francis for his consideration.

– Full text of Soupa’s application letter to be Archbishop of Lyon


Why am I running for archbishop of Lyon?

Noting that in 2020, in the Catholic Church, no woman heads any diocese, no woman is a priest, no woman is a deacon, no woman votes on the decisions of the synods,

Considering that to exclude half of humanity is not only contrary to the message of Jesus Christ, but is also harmful to the Church, which is thus maintained in an environment that is conducive to abuse,

Considering that I am neither a stranger, nor a hallway apparatchik, but that I have been acting in my Church for more than 35 years, in the field, as a biblical scholar, theologian, journalist, writer, president for 8 years of the Conference of the Baptized, and current president of the Skirt Committee,

Everything entitles me to say that I am capable of running for the title of bishop, everything makes me legitimate. Everything forbids me to do so.

If my candidacy is prohibited by canon law, it is simply because I am a woman, that women cannot be priests and that only priests, by becoming bishops, lead the Catholic Church.

Considering that saying “no” to this prohibition is a duty for me, both for this Church that I love and for all Catholics of whom I am a sister,

Considering that it is my responsibility to be a “servant of the Word” and to give an account of the hope that is in me,

I therefore dare to run for office in the Catholic Church.

Some will say that this gesture is crazy; but what is crazy is that it sounds crazy when it is not.

Is there only one model of a bishop, that of a single, elderly man dressed in black? Yet, what a gain it would be to dare to offer other faces to this office!

Considering that being a priest is one thing, and governing is another, that two popes have declared the question of women’s access to the priesthood closed, but that Pope Francis asked theologians to better distinguish priesthood and governance in order to make a place for women,

I note that nothing has been done in this regard for seven years. Would there be only my candidacy to respond to the Pope’s call?

To govern a diocese requires to be a priest only because canon law has decided so. But the office of bishop existed long before canon law! The Twelve Companions of Jesus were not priests; Peter was even married. Since the highest antiquity, the bishop (the “episcope”) has been a watchman, a protector who observes and watches over the cohesion and doctrinal correctness of a group of communities. In what way could a lay person not carry out this function?

Why apply to Lyon? Because in Lyon, four successive archbishops, Mgr Decourtray, Bilé, Balland, Barbarin, have failed in their primary task, that of protecting their communities. The shepherds let the wolves into the sheepfold and the predators went after the little ones. How today can we restore the legitimacy of the episcopal body? How can the Catholics of the diocese of Lyon, lay people and priests, who all aspire to a true, liberated word, in a united community, be able to trust again?

Why apply now? Because the Catholic Church continues to nourish a clericalism that has been denounced by the Pope: abuses of all kinds, sacralisation of the priest, a spirit of division…

Knowing and considering all these things, I am running for the Archdiocese of Lyon, not of my own accord, but because some of my relatives have led me there.

My approach, I hope, will be useful for all the women who today are assigned and restricted in their desire for responsibility.

I therefore invite them to apply wherever they feel called, whether it be to become bishop or to any other responsibility which is forbidden to them today.

Interview with Soupa on France 24

“The more women access higher office, the fewer abuses within the Church there will be

More inspiring stories on Novena of female role models in the Church:

Female candidate for Archbishop of Lyon deplores: “The situation of women in the Church is scandalous”

To put a stop to clericalism and abuse, female theologian puts hand up to be next Archbishop of Lyon


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.