Mgr Bustillo, Bishop of Ajaccio "Autonomy does not compromise the unity of the nation"

Mgr Bustillo, Bishop of Ajaccio “Autonomy does not compromise the unity of the nation”

Corsican elected officials and the government have agreed to include the island’s autonomy in the Constitution. The way, according to Monseigneur Bustillo, cardinal and bishop of Ajaccio, to celebrate the cultural singularity of the island.

Is autonomy the solution to the problems of Corsica?

I don’t think there is a miracle solution, on the other hand, I am convinced that it is possible to trace political paths so that a more serene social life can occur. My feeling is that this desire for appeasement is at work in the current discussions between the elected representatives of the Corsican Assembly and the government. The aspirations of the Corsican people are not new to me, I draw parallels with my experience in the Spanish Basque Country, an autonomous territory, or in Veneto, a region where autonomist demands are also strong.

What I see from contact with the population and elected officials is that the island is experiencing a period marked by significant community commitment. Then, once the advent of a common vision of the future has been achieved, the time comes to address the administrative, legal and technical aspects of what the notion of autonomy covers. Wanting to legislate on health, housing, finance, education, all of this requires maturity and specific skills.

Does the autonomy of Corsica, on a legislative level, correspond to the principle of subsidiarity supported by the Catholic Church?

Taken in the physiological sense of the term, autonomy induces evolution; acquiring more means that we grow, that we mature. In my opinion, subsidiarity fully applies to this territory. First on the geographical level: having control over health, land, the economy, to stick to the island’s specificity is an aspiration of the population. Then, cultural identity is evident (tradition, language, religious practice) and the Corsicans want it to be recognized. These specificities are a wealth, and a wealth that should be celebrated.

Seeking autonomy is not an attack on the unity of the nation; we would be wrong to oppose these principles, a happy articulation can exist. Corsican cultural unity is obvious, but highlighting the heritage of a region by enshrining it in law does not compromise the greatness of a country.

What unique place does Catholicism occupy in Corsican society?

Corsican cultural unity is all the more palpable around the Catholic tradition. The Virgin Mary occupies a prominent place in the imagination of the population, she is the protector of the island. The territory, mostly rural, steep and mountainous, is dotted with small villages and all have splendid churches. Places of worship are everywhere, from a small chapel in a shepherd’s hamlet, to a cross erected on the top of a mountain. If religious buildings are predominant in Corsica, it is because they remain common places, conducive to connections, where we meet for happy and unhappy moments.

If religious buildings are predominant in Corsica, it is because they remain common places.

What do Corsican youth aspire to?

Corsica is a country that aspires to peace and prosperity. Besides, I think that her youth needs a compass to guide her towards this ideal.

In 2022, during the revolts following the death in prison of Yvan Colonna (a nationalist convicted of the murder of prefect Érignac in 1998, Editor’s note), I was able to meet young people from the University of Corte (Haute-Corse). During these exchanges, I perceived significant intellectual potential and rich humanist values. What they need is a vision, a healthy horizon to aspire to an ideal and not to lock themselves into an ideology, because ideology has no heart.

Business leaders, educational, political or religious leaders, all wonder how to make young people want to stay in Corsica. Many go to the continent and unfortunately, if the island’s formidable natural and cultural heritage certainly leads to an exceptional tourist period, but the rest of the year, material precariousness is evident. 3000 colleagues are present in Corsica and their brotherhoods established in the villages work for solidarity with the most deprived. However, more harmonious economic development remains the main means of curbing poverty.

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