Vatican asks for suspension of ordinations in French diocese

Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon | Claude Truong-Ngoc via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Vatican has asked a diocese in southern France to suspend its ordinations of priests and deacons scheduled for this month after a “fraternal visit” of the diocese.

Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon announced June 2 that the suspension was requested due to “questions that certain Roman dicasteries were asking about the restructuring of the seminary and the policy of welcoming people to the diocese.”

“We welcome this request with both sorrow and confidence, aware of the trial it represents above all for those who were preparing to receive ordination,” Rey said.

The announcement comes after Archbishop Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille conducted a visitation of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, his suffragan, at the request of the Vatican. 

Aveline is among the 21 cardinals named by Pope Francis earlier this week. He will be the first French residential prelate to receive a red hat during this pontificate.

Rey, known for his support of the traditional Latin Mass, said that he has already spoken with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and other offices of the Roman curia about the questions raised by the visitation.

“Pending the outcome of these ongoing exchanges with the Roman dicasteries, it has been requested that the diaconal and priestly ordinations planned for the end of June be postponed,” he wrote in a letter published on the diocesan website.

The French diocese’s ordinations were scheduled for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29. 

According to the French publication La Vie, last year the diocese ordained ten priests and eight deacons.

La Croix reported that in 2020, 126 priests were ordained throughout France, and that more than 60% of the country’s dioceses had no ordinations.

Rey has ordained diocesan clerics using the 1962 Roman Pontifical, and has used the same book for the ordinations of religious communities, including the Institute of the Good Shepherd.

The diocese is home to the Fraternity of St. Joseph the Guardian and to the Monastere Saint-Benoit. 

The Benedictine community, which uses the traditional Latin Mass, recently had several of its members ordained outside France by an undisclosed bishop after Rey could not envisage ordaining the men amid the scrutiny of the diocese. 

After the promulgation of Traditionis custodes, the motu proprio issued by Pope Francis in 2021 which restricted Masses celebrated in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, Rey highlighted the concerns of a number of priests and communities present in his diocese who offered Mass according to the old rite. 

“I encourage each of you to also pray for our diocese, while waiting for the situation to be clarified for the good of all,” Rey said as he announced the postponed ordinations.

“May the Spirit of Pentecost keep our hearts at peace, happy to serve and to love.”

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