Jean-Marie Villot

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His Eminence

Jean-Marie Villot
Secretary of State
Jean-Marie Villot 1978.jpg
Appointed2 May 1969
Term ended9 March 1979
PredecessorAmleto Giovanni Cicognani
SuccessorAgostino Casaroli
Other posts
Ordination19 April 1930
by Alfred-Henri-Marie Baudrillart
Consecration12 October 1954
by Maurice Feltin
Created cardinal22 February 1965
Personal details
Born(1905-10-11)11 October 1905
Saint-Amant-Tallende, Puy-de-Dôme, France
Died9 March 1979(1979-03-09) (aged 73)
Vatican City
Previous post
Mottoauxilium a domino
Coat of armsJean-Marie Villot's coat of arms

Jean-Marie Villot (11 October 1905 – 9 March 1979) was a French prelate and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Lyon from 1965 to 1967, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy from 1967 to 1969, Vatican Secretary of State from 1969 to 1979, and Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church from 1970 to 1979. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1965.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Saint-Amant-Tallende, Puy-de-Dôme, to Joseph and Marie (née Laville) Villot; he was an only child. Before serving in the military until 2 August 1924, he studied for the priesthood in Riom, Clermont, and Lyon. He became a Marist novice on 7 September 1925, but left the order three months later. He went on to study at the Catholic Institute of Paris and the Pontifical Athenaeum Angelicum in Rome, where he earned a licentiate in canon law and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology in 1934 with a thesis entitled Le pape Nicolas II et le décret de 1059 sur l'élection pontificale.[1]


He was ordained a priest on 19 April 1930 by Archbishop Alfred-Henri-Marie Baudrillart. Villot was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Paris, and, from 1931–34, he served as secretary to Pierre-Marie Gerlier, bishop of Tarbes-et-Lourdes. He taught at the Clermont seminary and the Catholic University in Lyon, becoming vice-rector of the latter in 1942 and holding the post for the next eight years.[2]


Coat of arms of Cardinal Villot during both Vacancies in the year 1978

Working in the French Episcopal Conference in the early 1950s, Villot was appointed auxiliary bishop of Paris and titular bishop of Vinda on 2 September 1954. He received his episcopal consecration on 12 October from Cardinal Maurice Feltin, with Archbishop Emile Guerry of Cambrai and Bishop Pierre de la Chanonie of Clermont as co-consecrators.

On 17 December 1959, he was promoted to Coadjutor Archbishop of Lyon and titular archbishop of Bosporus. During the Second Vatican Council, he served as the Council's Undersecretary, succeeding Cardinal Gerlier as Archbishop of Lyon on 17 January 1965.


On 22 February 1965, he was created Cardinal-Priest of SS. Trinità al Monte Pincio by Pope Paul VI.[citation needed]

He was named Prefect of the Congregation for Council (later renamed the Congregation for the Clergy) in the Roman Curia on 7 April 1967, and would play a prominent role in the reign of Paul VI, being named Cardinal Secretary of State on 2 May 1969. In this latter position, he battled with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre over canon law and the ignored order to disband the Society of St. Pius X.[3]

Villot was named Chamberlain of the Roman Church, also known as the Camerlengo, on 16 October 1970, the first non-Italian to hold the office in half a millennium. On 15 July 1971, he was appointed President of the newly formed Pontifical Council Cor Unum until 4 September 1978, when he resigned during the brief pontificate of Pope John Paul I.

Styles of
Jean-Marie Villot
Coat of arms of Jean-Marie Villot.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Elevated to Cardinal Bishop of Frascati on 12 December 1974, Villot remained Secretary of State for the remainder of Paul VI's reign, and was retained in the same capacity under both John Paul I and John Paul II. Villot participated as a cardinal elector in both the August and October conclaves of 1978, which selected John Paul I and John Paul II respectively. In his capacity of Camerlengo, he served as the interim administrator of the Vatican between Paul VI's death and John Paul I's election, and between John Paul I's death and John Paul II's election.


Villot died from bronchial pneumonia on 9 March 1979, in his Vatican City apartment, at age 73. John Paul II celebrated his funeral Mass in St. Peter's Basilica four days later, and his remains were buried in the crypt of Ss. Trinità al Monte Pincio.


  1. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church". Biographical Dictionary (1903-2011). Ch. V.
  2. ^ Cardinal Jean-Marie Villot.
  3. ^ Charles A. Coulombe (2014) Vicars of Christ, Tumblar House. ISBN 0988353725. p. 432: "Lefebvre, former archbishop of Dakar and superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, had founded, with Paul's approval, the Society of St. Pius X for the preservation of the traditional liturgical rites of the Church. In 1976, it became apparent that the archbishop would not use the new rites at all, so he was ordered by the local bishop (in Switzerland) to disband the SSPX. He was then told by the Vatican that if he ordained the current class he would be suspended. Lefebvre appealed to the Apostolic Signatura, but Cardinal Villot, the secretary of state, forbade the Signatura to hear the case. This was a violation of canon law."


External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pierre-Marie Gerlier
Archbishop of Lyon
17 January 1965 – 7 April 1967
Succeeded by
Alexandre Renard
Preceded by
Pietro Ciriaci
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
7 April 1967 – 2 May 1969
Succeeded by
John Joseph Wright
Preceded by
Benedetto Aloisi Masella
16 October 1970 – 9 March 1979
Succeeded by
Paolo Bertoli
Preceded by
President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum
15 July 1971 – 4 September 1978
Succeeded by
Bernardin Gantin
Political offices
Preceded by
Amleto Giovanni Cicognani
Cardinal Secretary of State
2 May 1969 – 9 March 1979
Succeeded by
Agostino Casaroli