Laurent Ulrich, 70, was appointed Tuesday to the sensitive post of Paris archbishop, where this seasoned archbishop will have the task of appeasing a hard-to-govern diocese still marked by the resignation of his predecessor.
Pope Francis appointed the current Archbishop of Lille, in this position since 2008, to succeed Michel Aupetit after his resignation accepted in early December. The latter was challenged for his human resources management, and several newspapers loaned him an affair with a woman he had flatly denied.
“I didn’t expect it at all,” his successor said in a video released by the Archdiocese of Paris, noting that he had an initial reaction of “fear” at the difficulty of the task.
Archbishop of Lille since 2008, Monsignor Ulrich presents a moderate image within the Catholic episcopate, unreservedly adopting the orientations of Pope Francis. Involved in the migrant issue, he organized a prayer service in Dunkirk in honor of the 27 migrants who drowned in the canal last November.
Laurent Ulrich has a “real social fabric,” a source familiar with the environment asserts. In Lille, a diocese characterized by extreme poverty, he worked with associations. In December 2018, he called for calm in the “yellow vests” crisis.
Lille Mayor Martin Aubry wrote on Twitter, “He is a great spiritual man (…) in touch with believers and solidarity doers.”
A native of Dijon, with MA degrees in Philosophy and Theology, he was ordained priest in 1979 for the Diocese of Lyon, where he became vicar and later vicar-general. In 2000, he was appointed Bishop of Chambéry.
It is the first time in more than 40 years that an archbishop of Paris has escaped a former priest of this diocese, bringing to an end an era inaugurated in 1981 by influential Jean-Marie Lustiger.
But what might appear to be a lack of knowledge of Parisian realities could be a feature in the cover of the new archbishop, who would be able to work to restore the unity of the diocese without being suspected of being a magistrate and magistrate.
The stakes are high because after Bishop Aupetit’s “fall”, France’s most important diocese looks like a “cauldron”, with “clans”, as a well-informed source comments.
“I will be eager to listen to the sorrows I have experienced in recent months,” especially the “departure of my predecessor,” the Bishop declared in his video.
He will only have five years before he retires (set at 75 by church law). But the one who was Vice-President of the Conference of Bishops of France (2007-2013) and activated a regional council (2013-2015) in the dioceses of Lille, Arras and Cambrai would be able to count on recognized organizational talents.
– Archbishop of Notre Dame –
Laurent Ulrich will have to fill the entirety of the capital’s archbishop, an open seat and a strategic platform for the Church in France, while his predecessor has been criticized for relative aberration in this regard.
With the president of the Episcopal Conference – currently Eric de Moulin Beaufort – he will be the person who embodies the first French cult with political authorities, civil society and the media.
His appointment was also welcomed by Gerald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, Valérie Pecres, President of the Ile-de-France region, and Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris.
Another file to watch, as in all parishes: the file of sexual assaults committed by priests, a few months after the submission of the shock report of the Sauvé Commission. At Lille, Laurent Ulrich, as elsewhere, set up a listening cell, receiving victims, but also organized times of exchange between religious and secular leaders.
Finally, the new archbishop will have to manage the continuation of the restoration project of Notre Dame de Paris, which was badly damaged by a fire three years ago. This, in dialogue with the state, under the eyes of many believers and benefactors. The monument must be restored to worship by April 2024.
“I am pleased that the works make it possible to imagine (…) a new capacity to celebrate in this venue without much delay,” he said in his video.
The installation will take place in Paris on May 23 in the Basilica of Saint-Sulpice.