On Sunday, May 29, Pope Francis announced the formation of 21 cardinals: 16 electors under 80 and 5 non-electors over 80 – this is already the minimum age to be able to elect a pope during a conclave. Among them is the Archbishop of Marseille Jean-Marc Avlin, an open figure in the French episcopate, very close to the Argentine Pope. They both share the same vision of the Church, the same pastoral practice, and the same concern for the fate of immigrants.
Jean-Marc Evelin joins four other French cardinals: André Vincent Trois, soon-to-be Emeritus Archbishop of Paris in his 80s. Jean-Pierre Ricard, Emeritus Archbishop of Bordeaux; Philippe Barbarin, Emeritus Archbishop of Lyon; and Dominic Mamberti, President of the Supreme Court of Apostolic Sign. Therefore, the Archbishop of Marseille will be the only French Cardinal at the head of a diocese.
Jean-Marc Aveline was born in Sidi Bel Abbes in 1958, and came to France after the independence of Algeria in 1962. A scientist by training, very influenced by the priests working in the neighborhoods of Marseille, he entered the seminary, then was ordained a priest in 1984 a philosopher and theologian, also a specialist in ancient languages (Greek and Biblical Hebrew).
Throughout his career, in addition to serving in the parishes, he taught in Marseille and Lyon. Thus he founded the Catholic Institute of the Mediterranean in 1998, two years before he was awarded a joint doctorate in theology and philosophy from the Institut Catholic de Paris and Laval University in Quebec.
Dialogue, openness and friendship
Jean-Marc Avlin expert in interreligious dialogue, priest close to French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (2007-2018). In 2013, this man, described by simplicity and warmth, became Auxiliary Bishop of the then Archbishop of Marseille, Georges Pontier (2006-2019), who was also elected to preside over the Conference of Bishops of France. Then, to everyone’s astonishment, he succeeded him at the head of the Diocese of Marseille in the heart of the summer of 2019: because the diocese in general receives its bishop, it does not give birth to him. But Jean-Marc Evelin is the right man for the job, he is in every way compatible with this world diocese.
Furthermore, Jean-Marc Evelyn is seen as close to Pope Francis, particularly through the choices he makes. And so, during the epidemic, he distributed food parcels to those most affected by the health crisis, convinced that the Christian witness is passing through alms. Like Pope Francis, he calls for dialogue and sees in the rise of Islamic extremism the consequences of poverty: Indeed, misery and frustration are like a wick. And demagogues can exploit these tragedies. Without a voice, many disenfranchised are in danger of finding cheap answers in extremism and populism.”He said in an interview with Italian daily Avenir in July 2021.
Far from encouraging oneself to withdraw, the Archbishop of Marseilles fits well with a Christianity of openness that does not see the foreigner as an enemy. It’s also a sign from the Pope sent to the Church in France: an Ifop poll, conducted for La Croix after the first round of the presidential election, indicated that four out of ten Catholics voted for a far-right candidate. However, Jean-Marc Evelyn stands at the opposite of these ideas, just like the Jesuit pope, who since his election has denounced sovereignty and populism.
In the summer of 2021, the new Cardinal Francis appealed to hold a Synod on the Mediterranean. During a meeting of the mayors of this region and the bishops of this region in Florence at the end of February, he indicated in an interview with the Vatican News website that The Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are part of the Mediterranean Basin that ends at Gibraltar. We became aware of it [les] Events [ukrainiens]».
Also to Vatican News, Jean-Marc Avlin also presented his vision for Marseille, which he considers a “laboratory”: It has been depicted as the gateway to the East, and it is also the gate to the West.” This rhetoric is adopted by a few French bishops for fear of retaliation by the Catholic far right.
Towards a less vertical church
Accordingly, Cardinal Jean-Marc Avlin will be created on August 27, during a ceremony organized by the Jesuit Pope. This will undoubtedly be one of the last congregations established by cardinals at the invitation of Francis. And because the latter has various health problems: he had an intestinal operation in July 2021, he can now move only in a wheelchair due to pain in his right knee caused by ligament damage.
While he has been forced to cancel several of his engagements in recent weeks, rumors of an imminent end to his reign are still in full swing within Korea. The Argentine pope, who will celebrate his 86th birthday in December, is also refusing to have any surgery.
At the next church, the cardinals are expected to debate the new Apostolic Constitution governing the Roman Curia, effective June 5. It will be a matter of making a first assessment, no doubt modifying some points relating to this entry into force. But also to account for the support of the Pope who – since his election in 2013 – has renewed two-thirds of the members of the Council of Cardinals. If this in no way guarantees Bergogli’s election at the next conclave, it is a way of putting the possibilities together with the reforms undertaken by Francis, particularly the guarantee of the Synod which should be the subject of the Synod Synod. In October 2023.
The Latin American Pope already desires a church that is less vertical and less religious, hence this deliberative assembly that should allow profound changes, after the Christian consultation just ended. However, if this eighth council with the establishment of the cardinals still gives a place of pride to the bishops who are on the fringes of the church, then their fault is their lack of knowledge of each other and their lack of awareness of the rites of the Curia. It is therefore essential that the Pope organize this kind of meeting, usual under previous testimonies but extremely rare since 2013, if he does not want the cardinals to follow the “headline” out of his mind.
Especially since the Roman Curia has just turned the page on the death of Angelo Sodano, on Saturday, May 27. Former Foreign Minister John Paul II and Benedict XVI, a former ambassador to Chile, was known for his links with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the anti-communist, Angelo Sodano was the great protector of the founder of the ultra-conservative Christ Legion Army Marcial Maciel, a priest who assaulted a number of boys and young men, is accused Also embezzling millions of dollars.
As dean of the College of Cardinals between 2005 and 2019, Angelo Sodano has been a very dark figure in the church’s recent history, pulling the strings and maneuvering to rein in the Pope’s renewal impulses despite his retirement from work. Furthermore, he is suspected of having led Benedict XVI to resign in 2013.
Khalifa in the line
Therefore, a change of state of mind had just occurred, when Francis had just begun the main part of his pontificate by convening a village council which would witness the creation of cardinals on his line. Among them, the Archbishop of Marseille, Jean-Marc Avlin, because of his open attitude and desire for dialogue. It represents the same kind of priest that the Pope would want in dioceses, simple and in conversation with everyone.
With the reform of the Curia, urgently requested by the cardinals in 2013 and taking effect on June 5, and the Synod around the Synod scheduled for October 2023, Francis will have accomplished his task and can resign, considering that his task has been accomplished. But he also knows that the reforms that have been made will take time and hopes that a successor will continue on his line on the path that has been followed since 2013. Hence these sixteen new cardinal electors were created.
The success of the Curia reform and the next synod depended on the election of a Bergogli at the next conclave, anxious to make Francis’ legacy fruitful, or a change of Bergogli that would close the Latin arches.