Jacques Gaillot

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His Excellency

Jacques Gaillot
Titular Bishop of Partenia
Jacques Gaillot Manif-2011.JPG
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
In office1995–present
PredecessorJosé Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán
Ordination18 March 1961
Consecration20 June 1982
by Léon Aimé Taverdet
Personal details
Born (1935-09-11) 11 September 1935 (age 84)
Saint-Dizier, Champagne
Previous postBishop of Évreux
Styles of
Jacques Gaillot
Mitre plain 2.png
Reference styleThe Right Reverend
Spoken styleYour Excellency
Religious styleBishop

Jacques Jean Edmond Georges Gaillot (born 11 September 1935; About this soundpronunciation ; generally known in French as Monseigneur Gaillot) is a French Catholic clergyman and social activist. He was Bishop of Évreux in France from 1982 to 1995. In 1995, Pope John Paul II removed him as head of his diocese because he publicly expressed controversial and heterodox positions on religious, political and social matters.

These views earned him the popular nickname of The Red Cleric.[1]

Early years[edit]

Jacques Gaillot was born in Saint-Dizier, Haute-Marne, on 11 September 1935. He decided to become a priest while still a teenager. After his secondary studies, he entered the seminary in Langres.

From 1957 to 1959, he performed his compulsory military service in Algeria during the war of independence.

In Rome from 1960 to 1962 he completed his studies in theology and earned his bachelor's degree. He was ordained a priest in 1961. From 1962 to 1964, he studied at the Higher Institute for Liturgy in Paris and taught at the major seminary in Châlons-en-Champagne.

Beginning in 1965, he was a professor at the regional seminary of Reims. He chaired many sessions to implement the principles and policies established in the documents produced by the Second Vatican Council.

In 1973, he was assigned to the parish of St Dizier in his home town and became co-manager of the institute for the training of seminary instructors in Paris. In 1977, he was appointed vicar general of the Diocese of Langres. In 1981, he was elected vicar capitular.

Bishop of Évreux[edit]

On 5 May 1982, Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Évreux. He received his episcopal consecration on 20 June from Léon Aimé Taverdet, Bishop of Langres.[2]

During his first Easter message he wrote: "Christ died outside the walls as he was born outside the walls. If we are to see the light, the sun, of Easter, we ourselves must go outside the walls." Following this he then stated that: "I'm not here to convince the convinced or take care of the well. I'm here to support the ill and offer a hand to the lost. Does a bishop remain in his cathedral or does he go into the street?. . .I made my choice." Within months Gaillot had begun to act on his word.[3]

In 1983, he supported a conscientious objector in Évreux who declined to perform alternative service in forestry because it did not contribute to relief of the destitute or promoting peace.[4] During the yearly assembly of the episcopate, he was one of the two bishops (of a total of 110) voting against the episcopate's text on nuclear deterrence, which supported having nuclear arms as a legitimate deterrent.[3]

In 1984 he angered numerous Catholic authorities by refusing to support the movement in defence of French parochial schools.

In 1985, he supported the First Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and met Yasser Arafat in Tunis, being embraced by the future Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in a private audience. Perhaps the most notable event he performed in 1987 was attending, by invitation, a special session of the United Nations in New York to speak out for disarmament. The first amount of considerable media attention paid to Gaillot came in January 1985 when he signed an appeal on behalf of underpaid Catholic school teachers; also signing the appeal was Georges Marchais, the head of the French Communist Party. This proved to be highly controversial, bringing about the start of a right-wing campaign against Bishop Gaillot. Within his own diocese, Le Figaro spearheaded the campaign. At this point Bishop Gaillot was described as being "a tool of the church's worst enemies".[3]

In 1987, he went to South Africa to meet a young anti-apartheid militant from Évreux sentenced to four years in prison by the South African régime. There he also appeared at a demonstration where some Communist militants were also demonstrating. In order to accomplish this trip, he had to renounce going with the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes, a move that attracted criticism. Further, in the same year he also announced that the French Bishops "remain too preoccupied by the correct functioning of the church and its structures."[3] This only ensured that the responses to Gaillot when he later attacked the right-wing French political party, the National Front, were even stronger. Also in 1987 Gaillot traveled to Athens to show solidarity with a boatload of Palestinian refugees.

In 1988, during a closed-door session of the assembly[specify] in Lourdes, he advocated the ordination of married men to the priesthood. After the proceedings had finished Gaillot spoke to the press about the discussions held and also promoted his own viewpoints. By promoting a revision of clerical celibacy and the use of condoms, he caused considerable tension with the French bishops' conference, the situation being exacerbated by the fact that in speaking to the media about the session, Gaillot had violated convention regarding assembly conclaves. He later defended his previous actions, remarking that "I never broke the vow of celibacy ... I only questioned it. But that's worse."[3] Also that year, Gaillot took the unprecedented step for a Roman Catholic bishop of blessing a homosexual union in a "service of welcoming", after the couple requested it in view of their imminent death from AIDS.

In 1989, Galliot participated in a trip to French Polynesia organized by the peace movement, asking for the end to French nuclear testing.

He also participated in the ceremony of the transfer of the ashes of the late bishop Baptiste-Henri Grégoire (1750–1831) to the Panthéon, a necropolis for the great men of France. Grégoire had been instrumental in the first abolition of slavery, and the end of discrimination against Blacks and Jews during the French Revolution. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church had refused to give him the last sacraments because of Grégoire's acceptance of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Gaillot was the only French bishop participating in this ceremony.[5]

The French journalist Henri Tincq [fr] wrote in Le Monde that Gaillot "has the merit of saying out loud what many people in authority in the church think deep down".[3]

In 1989, the French Bishops' Conference, to the extent that the members of the episcopate voted to censure him after Gaillot gave an interview to the publication Lui, a publication known for its explicit sexual content. He also gave interviews to leading gay magazines and criticized his peers as incompetent to judge the circumstances of gays and lesbians. Gaillot offered his to resign but the Vatican did not respond.[3]

Toward late 1989, he made a conciliatory gesture by signing a promise of "loyalty" and "docility" to the papal authority. A week later, Gaillot appeared on television and spoke of the "feeble state of internal debate in the church" and express disappointment that progress had not been made since the Second Vatican Council.[3]

In 1991, he opposed the Gulf War, publishing a book called Open letter to those who preach war, but let it be waged by others. He also condemned the embargo on Iraq. By the end of 1991, the French Bishops' Conference had censured Gaillot three times, most recently for his intervention in Haiti, rousing support for Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Gaillot's book A Rant on Exclusion (Coup de gueule contre l'exclusion) was published in March 1994.[6] It criticized the French laws on immigration proposed by Minister of the Interior, Charles Pasqua.[7]

On 12 April 1994, Gaillot appeared on television in a discussion with dissident Catholic theologian Eugen Drewermann. On 14 April, Archbishop Joseph Duval, President of the Bishops Conference of France, wrote to Gaillot: "For all to see you are in solidarity with Drewermann. But how do you show your solidarity with us, your fellow episcopal brothers and the Pope? Are you aware that your position is unsustainable? The distance from your brothers in the episcopate that you emphasize makes us suffer and has become a scandal for many Catholics."[8] Gaillot at one point offered to resign, but withdrew his offer, fearing that the Vatican might resolve his case as it had that of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen in 1987 by appointing an auxiliary bishop with special authority.

Gaillot was the target of a bitter campaign to disparage his name. Unsubstantiated allegations of homosexuality, racism, anti-Semitism, and psychosis and neurosis were made by highly placed authorities in the French hierarchy.[3] Gaillot responded by calling Duval an "ayatollah" seeking to impose "ideological uniformity" within the French Bishops Conference. He compared the leadership style of Cardinal Bernadin Gantin, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, to that of the Stasi, the East German security police.[3]

Removal from Évreux[edit]

Gantin summoned Gaillot to a meeting at the Vatican on 13 January 1995 and offered the choice of resigning his see and becoming bishop emeritus of Évreux or being removed from his office. Gaillot returned to France and issued a statement that said: "I was asked to hand in my resignation, which I thought I had good reasons to refuse." As all bishops need to be assigned to a see (diocese), whether one that they administer or one to which they have only the relationship established by their title to it–a titular see–he was assigned the titular see of Parthenia, in accordance with standard practice for a bishop without real administrative responsibilities, used routinely for auxiliary bishops, officials of the Roman Curia, and senior diplomats of the Holy See.

The Church named two bishops to stay in contact with Gaillot.[7]

Reaction to removal[edit]

This removal sparked an emotional response from thousands of people across France and the rest of the world. Twenty thousand people, including Gaillot's own mother, attended Bishop Gaillot's last mass at the Cathedral in Évreux and stayed on the streets protesting the Vatican's decision. Protestors united under the leadership of the Communist mayor of the region and marched on the streets during the rain. With the Cathedral full, many people stayed outside for the bishop's last mass. Still being a bishop he left his cross, mitre and staff behind in Évreux.

The choice to remove Bishop Gaillot as ordinary of Évreux was widely seen as a mistake by both lay people and clergy, and also by many non-religious people who had come to view Gaillot favorably. After his removal, a reported forty thousand people wrote letters to the Cathedral office at Évreux, with more being sent to the Vatican and eminent prelates. He was perceived favorably by a significant number of people, particularly due to his ministry to all people without distinction. In addition, he had become a national figure after the sanctions taken against him.[9]

Official polls taken at the time consistently revealed the French public to be against the punishment brought upon Gaillot. One CSA survey showed that total of 64 percent of the public were against the firing of Jacques Gaillot as bishop of Évreux, with only 11 percent approving of his firing and a remaining 25 percent being undecided.[10] Some later polls showed that support for Gaillot might even have been as high as 75 percent.[3]

Reaction from other French bishops varied. No French bishop expressed public support for Gaillot, but the spokesperson for the hierarchy reported that both Cardinal Robert-Joseph Coffy of Marseille and Archbishop Duval were "visibly troubled" by the Vatican's action. Duval released a statement that said: "I pleaded for patience in Rome". Duval later said that he "regretted" what Rome had done and called it "an authoritarian act which cannot be accepted by society, even if it is carried out by the Church".[11]

The Archbishop of Cambrai, Jacques Delaporte [fr], defended Gaillot and called his removal "a wound for our church... a source of misunderstanding for the poor and for all those who seek the truth and who put their trust in the church."[12]

By the time he left office at the Diocese of Évreux he had visited more prisons than any bishop in France's history.

After Évreux[edit]

After being removed from his position as prelate of Évreux, Bishop Gaillot wrote the following comment:

I had a dream: to be able to accompany the poor, the excluded, the ignored, without having to explain myself or justify myself to the rich, the secure, or the comfortable. To be able to go where distress calls me without having to give advance notice. To be able to show my indignation at destitution, injustice, violence, the sale of weapons, and managed famines without being considered a meddler in politics. I dreamed of being able to live my faith within the church, but also in society, in my time and with my times. I dreamed of the freedom to think and express myself, to debate and criticise, without fear of the guillotine. I dreamed of the being different within the unity of faith, and remaining myself, alone and yet in solidarity with others. Ultimately, I hoped to be able to proclaim a Gospel of freedom without being marginalised.

— Jacques Gaillot, Voice From The Desert

After leaving the Bishop's Palace, Gaillot immediately moved in with illegal squatters in Paris' infamous Rue de Dragon. Since then he has shown similar solidarity with the homeless. Bishop Gaillot continues to defend human rights and engage in activism, regularly publishing information about his activities on the website of Partenia.

He remains active as a pastor to the excluded. He also travels throughout France and also internationally, spreading the word of the Christian Gospel and defending those who are considered "outcasts" (namely immigrants). He is an avid anti-war protester and is considered by many to be a strong socialist. Gaillot had a strong friendship with Abbé Pierre.

In 1995, after his removal as Bishop of Évreux, Gaillot attended a Call to Action conference in Detroit as one of the keynote speakers. He held three sessions, proving to be popular despite speaking through a translator. He hosted the conference alongside other controversial Catholic theologians including Professor Hans Küng and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.[13]

The removal of his responsibility over a specific geographical diocese permitted Gaillot to be even more daring in his activism. In 1995 following his removal, Bishop Gaillot engaged in protests regarding the policy of French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia. Gaillot went with a fleet of protest ships, being on the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior, he was subsequently removed from the ship by French commandos, given that Rainbow Warrior had sailed within the exclusion zone, and escorted back to the atoll.[14]

Twice bishops prohibited Gaillot from speaking in their dioceses. In 2000, Pope John Paul II forbade his participation in a conference in Rome about religion and homosexuals.[15] Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne banned Gaillot from addressing a World Youth Day event in Bonn in 2004 called subject of "Being a Christian in the Third Millennium: A Faith which has Hope".[16]

Also in 2004 Bishop Gaillot met with Maryam Rajavi, a controversial Iranian political activist. Gaillot strongly criticised the actions of some extremist religious leaders in Iran, going on to comment that “One must not forget that the strength of truth will make it [the Iranian resistance] triumphant. Darkness will give way and truth will prevail despite all the lies and ruses”. Rajavi publicly thanked the bishop and expressed that his support had been very effective in promoting the cause of the Iran resistance.[17]

Gaillot has also taken position as a well-known public figure in France, fighting for a number of causes; Gaillot serves as the co-chairman of one of France's foremost human rights activist groups, 'Droits devant !! [fr]' (Rights First), among other groups.

In 2007 Gaillot expanded his use of the internet by posting a video interview on the website Google Video, attempting to bring attention to the escalating violence in Darfur.[18]

A book released shortly after his removal from Évreux was Voice From the Desert: A Bishop's Cry for a New Church. It was a largely autobiographical discussion of the events surrounding his removal.

He has expressed his support for euthanasia[citation needed] and same-sex marriage, when it was legalized in France.

Réconciliation with Church authorities[edit]

In 2000, Louis-Marie Billé, Archbishop of Lyon and president of the French Bishops Conference, invited Gaillot to attend a national ecumenical service in Lyon on 14 May alongside other senior members of the French hierarchy. Billé said the invitation came from the bishops as a group: "It is important that Catholics, and public opinion in general, are aware that the communion that links us as brothers is real, even when it is lived out in a special fashion. What happened five years ago remains a wound even for those who don't necessarily share Mgr Gaillot's opinions." There was no indication that the Pope or anyone in the Roman Curia was involved. Gaillot accepted, writing that he was "happy to demonstrate my communion with the Church".[19][20][21]

On 1 September 2015, shortly before his 80th birthday, Gaillot, accompanied by Daniel Duigou, a priest and former journalist, met privately with Pope Francis in his Vatican City residence for 45 minutes. Gaillot said the pontiff encouraged him to continue his activism on behalf of migrants and refugees. After the meeting, Gaillot said he was “in love” with Francis.[22][23]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Reuters.French Against Vatican Sacking of "Red Cleric" Archived 2012-02-08 at the Wayback Machine 17 January 1995
  2. ^ Diocese of Partenia. [1] January 2007
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Englund, Steven (6 October 1995). "Provocateur or Prophet? the French Church & Bishop Gaillot". Commonweal. Questia Online Library. Retrieved 14 May 2015.(subscription required)
  4. ^ "Dix-Huit Mois de Prison pour un Unsoumis". Le Monde (in French). 16 April 1983. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Au Panthéon M. François Mitterrand préside un hommage à l'abbé Grégoire, à Monge et à Condorcet". Le Monde (in French). 13 December 1989. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  6. ^ Gaillot, Jacques (1994). Coup de gueule contre l'exclusion (in French). Ramsay. ISBN 9782841140084.
  7. ^ a b "Pasqua ne s'est pas «immiscé» dans la révocation de Mgr Gaillot". La Libération (in French). 24 January 1995. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  8. ^ Drewermann, Eugen (1997). Eicher, Peter (ed.). Jacques Gaillot, Der Traum von Menschlichkeit (in German). Kösel. p. 91. ISBN 978-2226075840.
  9. ^ Christianity Today. Deposed Bishop Invents Online Diocese, 29 April 1996
  10. ^ La Vie. January 1995
  11. ^ Bernstein, Carl; Politi, Marco (1996). His Holiness: John Paul II and the History of our Time. Doubleday. p. 509.
  12. ^ Skinner, John (27 January 1995). "Protests follow French bishop's removal". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  13. ^ Call to Action. My Option for the Poor Archived 2006-10-15 at the Wayback Machine 1996
  14. ^ The Militant. Protesters Say `No Nukes In Pacific!' 7 August 1995
  15. ^ Willey, David (2 July 2000). "Bishop's Gay Conference Ban". BBC News. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  16. ^ Lifesite News. World Youth Day Cardinal Forbids French Dissident Bishop from Speaking in Cologne 2 November 2004
  17. ^ Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) 17 August 2004
  18. ^ Diocese of Partenia. Darfur: conscience awakening 1 May 2007
  19. ^ Webster, Paul (13 May 2000). "Disgraced bishop is welcomed back". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  20. ^ "Monseigneur Gaillot revient parmi les siens". Le Nouvel Observateur (in French). 11 May 2000. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  21. ^ "Échange de lettres entre Mgr Billé et Mgr Gaillot". La Croix (in French). 10 April 2013. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  22. ^ Cordelier, Jérôme (1 September 2015). "Le pape François à Mgr Gaillot: "Nous sommes frères"". Le Point (in French).
  23. ^ Maillard, Sébastien (31 August 2015). "Mgr Jacques Gaillot à Rome : miséricorde jusqu'à Partenia". La Croix (in French). Retrieved 26 July 2019.


  • Christophe Wargny: Die Welt schreit auf, die Kirche flüstert. Jacques Gaillot, ein Bischof fordert heraus. Herder, Freiburg 1993, ISBN 978-3451230752 (de)
  • Christophe Wargny: Jacques Gaillot : Biographie, Syros, 1 April 1995, ISBN 978-2841461899 (fr)
  • Jean-Marie Muller: Guy Riobé, Jacques Gaillot : Portraits croisés. Desclée de Brouwer, 1 May 1996, ISBN 978-2220038018 (fr)
  • Pierre Pierrard: A nous la parole : Partenia, dix ans. Harmattan 17 October 2012, Kindle Edition, ASIN B00814BKFQ (fr)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Jean Marcel Honoré
Bishop of Évreux
Succeeded by
Jacques David
Preceded by
José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán
Titular Bishop of Partenia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New post
Chairman of Droits Devant
Succeeded by