The nuncio in France is to meet with women ‘apostles’ seeking their place in the Church hierarchy as one of their number, a would-be female bishop, received a death threat.

– “The Church is counting on you. But hurry up, for death may surprise you”

Sylvaine Landrivon is one of the 7 women of the new feminist Catholic group Toutes Apôtres! (All Women Apostles!) who last July 22 who slipped into the mailbox of the Apostolic Nunciature in Paris their candidacies for various positions in the Church – lay preacher, deacon, priest, bishop and nuncio – from which they are currently barred only because they are women.

But after that brave and prophetic gesture, Landrivon – who has applied for the position of bishop – had the nasty surprise of finding July 27 in her mailbox in her home in village of Isère, where she usually takes up residence for the summer, a letter explicitly threatening her.

“We look forward to your next reform, see (sic) your next Council. The Church is counting on you. But hurry up, for death may surprise you”, wrote the author of the letter to Landrivon, who did not hesitate to file a complaint with police over the death threat.

According to doctor of theology Landrivon herself, the gendarmerie is taking the threat “very seriously”, and have already proceeded to conduct a fingerprint analysis of the envelope in which the letter was contained.

– The threat, a sign “that some feel threatened in their identity”

In a statement Tuesday, Toutes Apôtres! “strongly condemn[ed]” the threat against Landrivon, with the seven women along with ‘mentor’ and inspiration Anne Soupa – who had earlier applied to succeed abuse-tainted Cardinal Philippe Barbarin as Archbishop of Lyon – deploring an aggression they said they felt “was addressed to each one of them”.

Each of the members of Toutes Apôtres! “stands in solidarity with Sylvaine Landrivon and is determined to live out their commitment for the equal responsibility for male and female baptised Catholics”, the press release from the collective added.

Toutes Apôtres! celebrated that “our collective and our candidates have received hundreds of messages of support from around the world” and have “had the joy of discovering unsuspected support among our loved ones and in our parishes”.

“Already, we have heard of priests who are calling for more equality in their homilies”, the collective noted.

But the women lamented that the death threat against Landrivon “reminds us that equality between women and men remains the marker of a cleavage” in the Church “between tradition and modernity, between human rights and patriarchy”.

The fact that a “simple demand for true equality” between men and women in the Church “provoke[d] such violence” is a sign “that some feel threatened in their identity” and that females Catholics continue to be “hostages” to an insidious sexism, Toutes Apôtres! decried.

“Such a situation cruelly highlights the urgency of opening a more serene debate all together. We must be able to build gender relations that escape the games of violence, power and hierarchy”, the collective added, before appealing to Catholics to consider supporting the cause of gender justice “which, at its core, is that of human rights”.

– The push for gender justice “like a wave that’s spreading”: female candidate for Lyon archbishop

In the meantime, and after the shock of the death threat against one of their number, the women of Toutes Apôtres! received some good news this week in the form of invitations to at least four of them from nuncio in Paris Celestino Migliore to meet with him privately to discuss their candidacies to Church office.

For her part, Anne Soupa, however, has not yet received any official response to her application to the Lyon archbishopric.

“It is very likely that when I myself applied, they thought that my gesture was anecdotal and that it was better not to talk about it”, the biblical scholar, theologian, journalist, writer and long-time Catholic women’s rights activist explained.

“But with seven more postulants, they probably can no longer afford not to deal with the matter, if only as a matter of courtesy. Because it’s like a wave that’s spreading”, Soupa rejoiced.

More on Novena on the inspirational French female ‘apostles’:

7 women ‘apostles’ claim place in male-only Catholic hierarchy: “The Church is in a deep crisis, and we need to open up its doors”

7 women “apostles” apply for male-only ministries in Church to challenge “immense injustice” of Catholic sexism

French archbishop welcomes woman’s bid for episcopacy, warns it would be “grave not to engage it seriously”

2/6: More than 4,500 sign in support of female theologian’s bid to be next Archbishop of Lyon (with video)

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.