A group of French Catholics has issued a “call for help” to Pope Francis to rid them of their “brutal” archbishop. According to the “Christians in Vaucluse” movement, Archbishop Jean-Pierre Cattenoz of the diocese of Avignon “has multiplied situations of conflict, extremes, sanctions, reversals and made highly questionable pastoral choices that have plunged the diocese into great difficulties”.

The intrigue

“We feel a great helplessness,” former New Testament teacher at the Avignon seminary and a member of “Christians in Vaucluse”, Chantal Guillermain, told La Croix.

The grievances of the Avignon faithful against the 73-year-old Cattenoz, Archbishop of Avignon since 2002, are many.

“For 17 years, the Archdiocese of Avignon has been governed by a bishop who has caused great indignation,” the “Christians in Vaucluse” movement claims.

They highlight the prelate’s alleged mistreatment of both priests and laity, neglect of inter-faith dialogue, financial mismanagement, homophobia and even cover-ups of claims of sexual aggression against adults levelled at a priest, amongst other complaints.

“Concern for the poor is neglected, associations are not supported and the reception of migrants has remained completely theoretical (they are even threatened with expulsion for occupying an empty building in the diocese)”, denounce the Avignon faithful.

What’s next

The “Christians in Vaucluse” accept the Pope won’t act on their request, but they maintain their letter to Francis is a means of “attracting attention”.

“Only you can now accelerate a retreat that would breathe new life into discouraged Christians who do not understand why Archbishop Cattenoz has been in a position of responsibility for so long”, they plead to the Pope, while at the same time denouncing the fact that the French Bishops are yet to get on their side.

For the record

In comments to La Croix, Cattenoz called the complaints of his faithful “slander”.

He had earlier dismissed the grievances of the “Christians in Vaucluse” as a “web of lies” woven by a group of “elderly, marginalised people”.