From our permanent special correspondent
Visiting Rome, the representatives of the French episcopate handed over to Pope Francis, Thursday, December 3, a new invitation to visit their country, according to information from The cross. The President of the Conference of Bishops of France, Bishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, as well as the Vice-Presidents Dominique Blanchet and Olivier Leborgne, met François in the morning, as part of a three-day visit to Rome.
During this interview, they gave the Pope a letter of invitation, in which they agreed to go to France, in particular to Marseille on All Saints’ Day 2021. The City of Marseille will indeed host at this period, between the 30 October and 1er November, a gathering of the Ignatian family. This gathering is part of the Ignatian Year, which will begin in May 2021, and notably marks the 500e anniversary of the injury of Ignatius of Loyola, an event from which the founder of the Jesuits began his conversion.
The three bishops arrived in Rome on November 30, where they met with several senior officials of the Curia, as they do every year after the fall plenary assembly of the French episcopate. They were accompanied by the new secretary general of the episcopate, Father Hugues de Woillemont.
This invitation to Pope Francis is far from the first. On the contrary, the French bishops take advantage of each interview with the Pope to renew their wish to welcome him to France. A consistency that we also observe on the side of the Élysée, since when he happened to correspond with the Pope in recent months, Emmanuel Macron constantly renewed the invitation addressed to the Pope to come to France. This was the case, for example, during their discussions on the occasion of the Covid crisis or the terrorist attacks, but also after the fire in Notre-Dame: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, then handed over an invitation to the Holy See, during a visit to Rome, in April 2019.
The tenant of the Quai d’Orsay had mentioned this invitation again during a meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin in June 2020. And he could still talk about it again with his counterpart of the Holy See, Bishop Paul R. Gallagher, during ‘an interview scheduled for Friday 4 December. Lately, it had been envisaged a visit of Pope Francis in November 2020, on the occasion of the Paris Peace Forum, which was to be organized from November 11 to 13, but the Covid-19 pandemic decided otherwise.
If France is considered by some, in France, as “The great forgotten” papal journeys, those close to the Pope regularly recall that Francis gives priority to countries considered to be peripheries, either because of their economic situation, or because of that of Catholics in the country. In Europe, for example, he visited Romania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia in 2019, as well as the Baltic countries the year before, Sweden and Greece in 2016, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015.