While asserting that the community’s priests never asked to meet with the archbishop, the archdiocese denounced a media campaign against Minnerath that, it said, was “very revealing of the spirit of a part of the people who refer to the Fraternity.”
The controversy erupted a few months after the emergence of a memorandum drafted by the French bishops’ conference in response to a 2020 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith questionnaire regarding the extraordinary form, sent to bishops worldwide.
The bishops’ conference text treated the refusal by priests of the FSSP to concelebrate as problematic. It also called for steps to “induce the faithful of the extraordinary form to participate more in diocesan life,” to avoid the creation of a “parallel Church.”
While some commentators saw the Dijon decision as a consequence of the bishops’ conference report, Perrel said that there was no evidence of a connection and that tensions between the Fraternity and Minnerath go back further.
According to the priest, the archbishop tried to transfer the community to another parish a year ago, to install a new community at the Basilica of Fontaine-lès-Dijon, ultimately abandoning the idea after dissension emerged between him and the other community.
Minnerath, who has served as archbishop of Dijon since 2004, will celebrate his 75th birthday on Nov. 27. That is the age that bishops are expected to submit their resignations to the pope.
“We knew that he had in mind to send us away, but his mandate at the head of the archdiocese is drawing to a close, so we thought we just had to wait one more year and that the situation would have probably improved with his successor, but he expelled us before leaving office,” Perrel said.
Asked about possible remedies, Perrel said that the FSSP had raised the case with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. But since there is no contract between the Fraternity and the diocese, it will be difficult for the FSSP to challenge the decision.
“Our presence was never officialized and we were kept in precarious conditions all along,” he said.
Members of the parish, for their part, have spared no effort in seeking to convince the archbishop to reverse his decision. After gathering a delegation -- through the Association des Amis de la Basilique de Fontaine-lès-Dijon -- to meet with Minnerath May 28, they launched a Facebook page and online petition in support of the Fraternity.
The petition has gathered almost 2,500 signatures in a week. The diocese, however, told CNA that the initiative “will not change anything” because a majority of the signatures come from outside of Dijon archdiocese.
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While saying that he felt “really hurt” by what he considered to be “contempt” on the archbishop’s part, Perrel argued that the faithful were the ones suffering most from the situation since the community is currently offering 12 Masses a week.
He said that from September diocesan priests would celebrate only one extraordinary form Mass a week, on Sundays.
“Not to mention visits to the sick and the poor, catechism classes for children and adults, sacramental preparation, the parish youth group…We’re destroying something that was working well, and it is a great loss for the local population,” he said.