From the fall of 2018, Promesses d’Église contacted the Conference of Bishops of France, and you are responsible for supporting it: you were then president of the Council for movements and associations of the faithful.
Bishop Dominique Blanchet: I was touched and impressed by the strong reaction to the Letter to the people of God. The Church Promises initiative is part of this reception. This gathering is totally new and unique at the national level. Bishop Fonlupt, current president of the Council for Movements, and I are very attentive to the means which will allow this dynamic to be maintained over time. The charter which has just been signed is one of them. The initiators expressed their willingness to work in synergy with the bishops.
The movements that participate are of ecclesial sensitivity that are sometimes very distant: is this not a difficulty?
Bishop DB: The diversity of participants is striking: the leaders of the movements get to know each other and go beyond their preconceptions. It is the usual fruit of any synodal process. There are prejudices in the Church that do not resist when we decide to work together. And these meetings have a taste for novelty. In the dioceses, these exchanges are more usual: that the laity meet to reflect together is fortunately not completely new!
This “collective” is neither a movement, nor an association… How to hold together?
Bishop DB: The charter will help find common reasons for being in this dynamic. The goal today is not yet very clear. What is established is the will to respond to the Pope to fight against clericalism, which is “Contempt for baptismal grace”, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI. This drift can be the work of priests and also of lay people. Each of those who participate questions their own mode of governance. It is quite remarkable.
What would be the difficulties of this initiative?
Bishop DB:Hold over time. Promises d’Église was presented during the Plenary Assembly of Bishops in November 2019. While encouraging the process, we drew their attention: we must keep at the center the mission of the Church mandated to proclaim Christ to the world. It is one of the criteria of ecclesiality defined by John Paul II in the exhortation christifideles laici (1988).
Does this commitment of the baptized to repair the Church not open up the prospect of a national synod?
Bishop DB: That the Pope announces a synod on synodality encouraged Church Promises. Their initiative is already synodal, which means “to walk together”. That national movement leaders ask the question of a national synod is not surprising, but cultivating a culture of synodality is even more important. A “synod” is indeed a singular event. Its form is specified by the law of the Church: if movements expressed the wish, such a national convocation could only be decided in the Assembly of Bishops.