In Ardèche, the construction of a chapel has come to a halt again

Rome has decided in this thorny affair, which has shaken the Ardèche Church for years. In a press release published on Tuesday March 16, the diocese of Viviers indicated that the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life had issued a decree not ultimately authorizing the construction, as it stands, of a chapel. in Saint-Pierre-de-Colombier. It thus rejects the appeal filed by the Missionary Family of Notre-Dame (FMND), at the initiative of this vast project estimated at 18 million euros.

→ THE FACTS. In Ardèche, interruption of the controversial Notre-Dame des Neiges construction site

In September 2020, Bishop Jean-Louis Balsa, considering “The disproportionate aspect of the project” – the chapel of Notre-Dame des Neiges was to be able to accommodate, in the long term, nearly 3,500 faithful – had already promulgated a decree opposing the construction of the church, as currently designed by the Catholic community of diocesan right .

A “More modest building”

In its press release, the local Church recalls that the bishop had made this decision “After several exchanges” with the FMND, and “After having implemented the process required by Church law”, in the wake of “Refusal, by [la communauté religieuse], a proposal from the bishop for a more modest building in size and cost ”.

At the time, the institute of consecrated life – founded in 1946 in Saint-Pierre-de-Colombier, and which today has nearly one hundred and five members in thirteen French homes – had also refused the moratorium requested by Mgr. Balsa. In the wake of the decree of the diocese of Viviers, he had decided to file an appeal with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, on which he depends. Appeal dismissed, therefore.

In a right of reply published in the wake of an article published in August 2018 in The cross, the FMND argued that Bishop Jean-Louis Balsa had been notified of the project in September 2015, a few days after its installation. “The project was then discussed at the general chapter of the FMND in his presence in January 2016, and he encouraged the construction process in the presence of 60 members of the community”, she wrote then. Contacted by The cross, the religious community has not yet wished to react to the Roman developments in the matter.


While residents and environmental activists were actively worried about the ecological impact of this construction in the heart of the Regional Natural Park, the Notre-Dame des Neiges project also experienced legal setbacks. Started in 2019, the works are now at a standstill. Last June, the Ardèche prefecture – which had granted the building permit – finally requested, with the agreement of the religious community, the suspension of the site, to allow new environmental studies to be carried out.

At the start of the last school year, this suspension was maintained, despite opposition this time from the FMND, which had lodged an appeal with the administrative court of Lyon. Their request was rejected on February 5, the court considering that “The continuation of the work, in spite of the precautions already taken or planned by the religious congregation and the companies intervening on the site, would cause here irremediable damage to the listed species or whose presence is suspected, as well as to their environment […] “. The suspension of the site remains temporary, however, before the examination, in the coming months, of the appeal on the merits by the Lyon courts.


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