They come from Trappes, Bondy, Courneuve and Sarcelles. There will be twelve young people this Thursday to meet Pope Francis, accompanied by five priests and lay people involved in the Missionary Fraternity of Cities.
“I want to tell him what we experience in our parishes, to show him our joy and our pride in being a Christian,” enthuses Sabine, 21, a psychology student in Sarcelles. But, above all, I I want to tell him to what extent our diversity is an asset.”
Because city parishes have the particularity of bringing together, in the same community, believers from very diverse origins. Up to 90 nationalities sometimes. A strength, but also a challenge, when it comes to bringing together so many cultures and practices in a single celebration. It is to meet this challenge that the Missionary Brotherhood of Cities was created at the beginning of 2022. Serving priests from working-class neighborhoods, sometimes left to their own devices in the face of the difficulties of their mission, its aim is to accompany and support them. train to bring this diversity to life.
“In a fragmented West, which no longer knows why and how to live together, what is happening in the cities seems prophetic to me” explains Jean-Étienne Rime, a lay person involved in the structure.
Parishes in cities under the radar
For several months, and in response to the riots which shook France last summer, city churches have wanted to make their voices heard.
“We are a church off the radar. The cities are not just rioters, burned cars, drug dealers… There are also very active Christians engaged in the life of their neighborhood who evangelize much more than we do. cannot think so. The dynamism of our communities could awaken a tired church” Father Patrice Gaudin confided to us a few months ago, in Bondy.
“So many Christians, from different cultures, who, on a daily basis, practice living together with missionary zeal, that’s good news! And who says it? Not many people…” saddens Father Étienne Guillet, parish priest of Trappes . “We are tired of systematically hearing about our cities as places that only cause problems in our country. We, urban Christians, are witnesses to other things.” And it is precisely this other thing that young people want to bring to Pope Francis.
A missionary Church
Despite a difficult context in the country and in a Church which suffers from a tarnished image, they assure that there have never been so many people in their parishes. Every week, the benches fill up a little more.
“I have so many young people in Bondy that I no longer know where to put them,” laughs Father Patrice Gaudin. Same observation for the priest of Trappes: “half of the town is under 30 years old, it is the same in our parishes. Here, young people are not afraid to say that they are Christians”. For Sabine, it is indeed obvious: “My joy is to praise, to help and to love. I want to say it again and again”.
“Send us priests to our cities! »
But to keep this dynamism alive, we still need to have priests. And it is also this message that young people will bring to Pope Francis tomorrow: “we need priests in the cities”. “INSEE has identified 800 cities, but are there that many parishes in them?” asks one of them.
“The Church of France is struggling to invest in cities. It does not realize the gold mines that they represent” regrets Jean-Étienne Rime. For him, as for the other members of the fraternity, it is the only way for this missionary Church to live.
Following the summer riots, the structure launched an appeal to the bishops. The latter remained a dead letter. The Brotherhood does not lose hope. Several of its members met in the summer with the apostolic nuncio to France, Mgr Celestino Migliore. The latter suggests a meeting with the Pope. “Pope Francis is attached to our churches in the peripheries. He is touched by the message of young Catholics from working-class backgrounds. They are the ones who will speak to him. There is no doubt that he will listen to them”
Will the Church of France do the same? “We hope so with all our hearts,” concludes Jean-Étienne Rime.