A French bishop has hit out at traditionalist Catholics who “think they own the truth” after a group of ultraconservative faithful disrupted an interreligious gathering in Créteil, on the outskirts of Paris.

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Bishop of Créteil Michel Santier spoke to La Croix after a number of young people from the ultratraditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) disrupted a commemoration October 27 of the 800th anniversary of the meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and the Sultan Al-Malik Al-Kamil.

Santier said a group of Catholic and Muslim faithful had gathered in Créteil Cathedral that afternoon for a meditation led by Franciscans.

The bishop had offered a greeting and introduced a time of listening to a Muslim choir and to gospel music, “to emphasize that the mixture of cultures is ever-present in Créteil”, he explained.

“All of a sudden, a group of young Lefebvrists, who had split into several small groups in the cathedral, started screaming at us, calling us blasphemers”, Santier recounted.

The bishop said he stood up, asked them to leave “and then sang a Salve Regina, which the crowd quickly took up”.

That is a song “that speaks to Muslims because they have a special affection for Mary”, Santier explained.

“The troublemakers continued to scream, while throwing out leaflets. The police quickly intervened and they finally left, while we continued to sing Hail Marys”, the bishop recalled.


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Santier said “this is not the first time” he has been confronted with such “political actions” on the part of SSPX adherents, who celebrate Mass in their churches in Latin, with the priest with his back to the people.

The bishop said he has experienced similar episodes in the Vendée and also in Montmartre, in Paris.

“The problem with these people is that they think they own the truth”, Santier lamented.

“But how religious could this action be? They don’t even respect the sacredness of the cathedral”.

“Because we are welcoming, we become, in their eyes, blasphemers”, the bishop decried.

“While this is not true, it was a day of exchanges and meetings and it closed with a time of common meditation, which is to be distinguished from a prayer. It was a fraternal time”, Santier explained.

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Why it matters

Santier said that what he had learned from the episode with the ultraconservative protesters – “minor compared to the richness of the day we had enjoyed” – “is that we must continue to engage in dialogue with the more traditionalist Catholics”.

“It is very important to engage in interreligious dialogue but we must not forget the dialogue also within the Church”, the bishop insisted.

He added that his relations with traditionalists in his diocese are “good” and that he sometimes celebrates Mass with them.

But Santier also warned “the group we were dealing with here is different”.

“They don’t want to talk. They are fighting the very work we want to do”, he deplored.

“It didn’t disturb me, however, nor did it disturb the whole day: everyone left happy!”, the bishop celebrated.

He said that the incident with the ultraconservatives has only strengthened his resolve “to continue the work of meeting with the Muslim community, as Pope Francis invites us to do”.

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