AMIENS/FRANCE: An important group of Catholics faithful to the tradition (FSSPX) has sought for 2 years a church in the city of Amiens. In this diocese about 400 churches are empty. The bishop, however, prefers to let them rather decay than to open them to the Traditionalists of Mgr Lefebvre, in spite of repeated respectful requests. Thus, on Sunday Nov. 11th, on the day of St Martin, was celebrated a “wild” - however very solemn – holy Mass, in front of 800 faithful, in the wind and under a beating rain, in front of the church Saint German the Scotsman at Amiens, a church which is closed down since 2 years, only a few steps away from the famous Gothic cathedral. It’s as if St Martin had divided his coat for nothing sharing it with a poor man shivering in the cold, in front of the doors of Amiens. - How could this situation arrive? A flyer of the FSSPX explains: “Since 1972, the traditional catholic community of Amiens, served by the priests of Mgr Lefebvre, celebrates in peace the holy mass according to the holy liturgy of all times in a room rented by the General Council of the Somme Prefecture. However, in May 2007, the General Council sold this house including the entire area, so that the traditional catholic community of Amiens finds itself in the streets since Monday Nov. 5th, 2007, expiry date of the lease. During the last 5 months these Catholics made large efforts to find another place of worship. These efforts, for the moment, have not succeeded. In this difficult situation, the community turned to the bishop, Mgr Jean-Luc Bouilleret…, asking from his benevolence the provision, was this only a few hours each Sunday, of a church building in Amiens or in the outskirts of the city. Materially speaking this request raises almost no difficulty. The shortage of priests (about sixty priests are currently in activity in the diocese) involves, indeed, that many churches at Amiens and in the outskirts of the city remain empty and unoccupied during most of the Sundays of the year… Such a gesture from the side of Mgr Bouilleret would conform to the pattern of the desire of the Holy Father of an internal reconciliation within the Church… But on September 16th, a letter of the bishop put an end to this request: `I regret to inform you that we cannot place at your even temporary disposal a church affected under my responsibility', writes the prelate. And despite all our attempts of contact, despite all our petitions, without even having granted to the community the favour of a personal meeting, Mgr Bouilleret has maintained up to this day his decision: no welcome, no provision, no opening!” - One remembers another case of “wild masses”, in the Paris area, under similar conditions. It was 20 years ago when the church Sainte Genevieve of Argenteuil had initially been lent by the bishop of Pontoise to the Moslems during 15 years - the church becoming thus the “Quoubâ mosque” -, then sold by the bishop to the communist municipality of Argenteuil, in spite of a request for purchase by a group of Catholics faithful to the tradition, and this mayor made demolish it on November 5th, 1987 in order to build there social homes. Following these events, the Catholics had occupied, during 2 years, 18 various churches of the Val-d'Oise Prefecture, including twice the cathedral St Maclou of Pontoise and three times the Basilica of Argenteuil (where the Holy Tunic of Christ is venerated), to celebrate the mass of Sunday there. All for nothing ! The bishop of Pontoise - Mgr Thierry Jordan, today archbishop of Reims - remained adamant. These Catholics, at the time, had first turned to cardinal Ratzinger in Rome (who had kindly received their delegation), then to pope John-Paul II himself by sending their distress message to him: “A catholic bishop prefers to us Moslems, Communists, even the demolition and nothing. We take the liberty to submit the question to You, our Most Holy Father: does our bishop have the right, because of `the excommunication' of Mgr Lefebvre, to refuse us his empty churches which we need vitally? Wouldn't we be any more sons of God, his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ? Can he refuse us the bread crumbs we are asking for?” – At Amiens, another holy mass has been announced for the following Sundays at 10 AM “in front of the cathedral”, if no empty church is obtained or at least lent to those faithful Catholics. - Coordinates of Mgr Jean-Luc Bouilleret: 21 rue François Genin, BP 43008, F-80030 Amiens Cedex 1, Ph .12 or .00, fax, email - (Ru; cf RU 31/2007)

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