the Archbishop of Marseille introduced by a Pope Francis at the end of his pontificate – Liberation

A fact which became extremely rare under this pontificate, a Frenchman was named cardinal. Among these new “princes of the Church”, Jean-Marc Aveline, 63, prelate from Marseille. What is the prefigure of the post-Francis, as this consistory opens in Rome against a backdrop of the atmosphere of the end of the pontificate.

One after the other, the 20 new cardinals, appointed in May, will kneel this Saturday afternoon in Saint Peter’s Basilica, before Pope Francis. It is his ritual to give them the red bar, square crown and cardinal’s ring, a sign of their role as advisor to the head of the Catholic Church and elector, responsible for choosing when the time comes for the successor of the Argentine Jesuit. Among these new “princes of the Church”, as they are nicknamed and whom Francis has carefully chosen, figure – a fact that has become extremely rare under this pontificate – a Frenchman, Jean-Marc Aveline, 63 years old and archbishop of Marseilles.

“It is an intellectual profile, with a simple and warm approach but with a certain reserve”, highlights academic Blandine Chélini-Pont, specialist in the geopolitics of religions at the University of Aix-Marseille. Born in a pied-noir family from Algeria, Jean-Marc Aveline has been from Marseille since the age of 8. And is very attached, according to relatives, to his city. Brilliant is first and foremost a theologian specializing in dialogue with other religions, Mediterranean questions and migration, concerns in line with the priorities of Francis’ pontificate. Which, according to specialists, explains why he was promoted to cardinal.

During the last ten years, Jean-Marc Aveline nevertheless left the intellectual field to take up important responsibilities within his institution. In 2013, he became auxiliary bishop of Marseille and then, in 2019, succeeded Georges Pontier as head of the diocese. If the Catholicism of Marseille is a demographic minority and represents almost a third of the population, it is very written, according to Blandine Chélini-Pont, in local life, especially through a dense network of schools.

Even in a secular state like France, having cardinals is always important, a sign of diplomatic weight and cultural aura. Despite the assurances that Jean-Marc Aveline continues to give in his recent interviews, France is not, however, a priority for Pope Francis. During his pontificate, the Jesuit favored the “peripheries”, abandoning the great powers of the West. And although he is marked by the great names of French theology such as Henri de Lubac or Yves Congar, Pope Francis is also not a Francophile, as John Paul II or Benedict XVI can be.

The French presence was reduced to a minimum

Three French personalities strongly marked the pontificate of John-Paul II: the cardinals Jean-Marie Lustiger, one of his relatives; Jean-Louis Tauran, who is one of the great diplomats of the Vatican; and Roger Etchegaray who was also the Archbishop of Marseilles before being appointed to the Roman curia where he led secret missions to Fidel Castro, in Rwanda or in China. Currently, the French presence in the Vatican is reduced to a minimum. The only cardinal in office is Dominique Mamberti, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the equivalent of the Court of Cassation, a personality of little significance in the current pontificate.

On the other hand, the Archbishop of Marseille is gaining weight within the French episcopate. Recently, Pope Francis appointed him a member of the very powerful Congregation of Bishops, one of the major “ministries” of the Roman curia, which is responsible for proposing to the head of the Catholic Church the names of future bishops. With the appointment of Laurent Ulrich as head of the diocese of Paris, a clear transition began within French Catholicism, whose bishopric was one of the most turbulent during the 1970s and became under the pontificates of Jean -Paul II and Benedict XVI who is one of the most conservative in Western Europe.

Strengthened by his new title of cardinal, Jean-Marc Aveline, has not lost hope of bringing the pope to France, especially to Marseille, a city of the world, a city outside that wants to Francis. However, this seems increasingly unlikely due to the pope’s declining health, which has significantly reduced these trips outside the Vatican.

An impending resignation?

In Rome, an atmosphere of the end of the papacy began to reign. By creating these new cardinals, Francis finished shaping the conclusion of the next conclave, where the weight of Europeans has decreased over the last ten years. Since becoming pope, Francis has made a rebalancing between North and South. Of the 20 new cardinals, there are 8 Europeans, 5 Asians, 4 Latin Americans, 2 Africans and 1 North American.

After Saturday’s ceremony, more than 200 cardinals from around the world were summoned to Rome on Monday and Tuesday – this has not happened for three years and the beginning of the pandemic -, officially to study the new rule for action. of the Roman curia, which Francis recently implemented. This may be the moment for important announcements on his part. That in the future resignation? As of this spring, the question is no longer taboo. But it may be premature at this stage.

The fact remains that, almost unable to walk, François was forced to consider his succession. And the possibility of resignation. He himself fed the rumor. This Sunday, he went on a pilgrimage to L’Aquila, east of Rome, to the tomb of Celestine V, the first pope to resign, in the 13th century.

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