In just four months, the diocese of Paris lost two of its vicars general, both of whom had resigned. First Bishop Alexis Leproux last December, and now Bishop Benoist de Sinety, who announced his departure on Tuesday March 30, to become parish priest in Lille. Unexpected and revealed at the start of Holy Week, this second departure aroused the astonishment of the Parisian clergy and drew attention to the inner workings of the diocese of the capital.
By its number of priests, faithful and parishes, not to mention its strategic importance, the diocese of Paris has a very particular functioning. To support him in his mission, the Archbishop – Mgr Michel Aupetit, who took office in January 2018, replacing Cardinal André Vingt-Trois – can count on three auxiliary bishops, all vicars general. Before the departure of Fathers Leproux and Sinety, there were thus five of them.
Renowned for his pastoral sense and his warm approach, Bishop Aupetit, 70, seems never to be so happy as during visits to parishes, to meet the faithful. On the other hand, administrative management and relations with priests are largely delegated to the vicars general, according to a division by sector. Certain Parisian priests thus recount never having met face-to-face with their archbishop, yet in office for more than three years.
“In general and in Paris in particular, vicar general is a rather thankless job, comments from a good connoisseur of the functioning of the Church : we are no longer a pastor but without being really responsible. ” Many underline the administrative burden of this load in the capital where the files are, by the very size of the diocese, many to be delicate. Bishop de Sinety was thus tasked with monitoring the Saint-Merry pastoral center, which Bishop Aupetit finally decided to close on 1er March, just as he was representative of the diocese for the follow-up of the restoration of Notre-Dame, before being replaced in February by Mgr Éric Aumonier, bishop emeritus of Versailles.
In this context, the resignations of Fathers Leproux and Sinety are not really a surprise for several observers of the life of the Parisian diocese. “These are priests who loved nothing as much as being parish priests and who found themselves doing administrative work in an office”, confides a person who knows them well.
This is also the explanation put forward on the side of the archdiocese, following the announcement of the resignation of Mgr de Sinety. Almost five years after being appointed vicar general, he felt the need to ” change of scenery “, we justify. For his part, Father Leproux, notably founder of the Even courses intended for young adults, resigned only two years after his appointment as vicar general.
Are these arguments sufficient to explain two departures less than four months apart? For some, the mode of governance of Bishop Aupetit would have played a role in these resignations. “Bishop Aupetit is ultimately rigid and not very diplomatic in his management, asserts a priest who worked with him when he was Bishop of Nanterre (2014-2017). An analysis vigorously denied by others. “The archbishop does his best to take care of each other and as long as we do not work concretely with him, we cannot really say anything about his methods”, insists a well-informed source. Before you squeak : “It’s always easy to talk bad. “
For others, the problems are more at the level of interpersonal relationships. Dynamic, at ease everywhere and in all environments – Bishop de Sinety notably presided over the funeral of Johnny Hallyday in 2017 -, the two former vicars general “Are two great affectives who need recognition”, confides a priest who knows them well. Now, he continues, “Bishop Aupetit does not place himself at all in this register of affectivity”. Conversely, the Parisian archbishop is capable of a sharp word, which would not have been without causing tensions with the two men.
If he refuses to comment on his own resignation, Bishop de Sinety assures on the other hand that the date of his announcement – at the start of Holy Week – does not in any way signify a distrust of the archbishop. It is rather, he explains, that his host diocese, Lille, traditionally announces the nominations during the chrism mass, and this one took place on Tuesday, March 30.