Samuel Amédro and Jean-Paul Vesco: “We are the same Church of Christ”

Samuel Amédro and Jean-Paul Vesco: “We are the same Church of Christ”

You both live, or have lived, in the land of Islam. Witnessing to the Gospel, what does it change, or has it changed for each of you?

Samuel Amédro: The evening I arrived in Morocco with my wife and children, in 2010, we had nothing to eat. It was Ramadan: the stores were closed. But we were invited to break the fast and had a huge meal! I thus came into contact with Islam through its most festive, hospitable side. We must begin any interreligious dialogue with the most friendly thing the other offers, I understood. And then, in this country where everyone lives peacefully as Muslims, I understood that Christianity is not obvious, that it can only acquire its legitimacy by offering what it has to offer. best: the path of fragility.

Jean-Paul Vesco: Indeed, for Muslims, being a Christian seems incomprehensible, even if these Christians are very close friends. Their encounter called me to see a greater God. Because either we think that the other is in error, or we listen to their part of the truth, and we look higher. I thus understood to what extent my Christian faith is madness. The attempt to explain the mystery does not lead to conversion, but something can happen between believers living different faiths, a mutual enrichment. Dialogue, in truth, transforms.

On the other hand, in our secularized society, God no longer seems a subject. How do you announce Christ there?

J.-PV: It’s very different: I then address people whose thirst for God – I think it is inscribed in every human being – has not been structured in a tradition. There, I can go more into the exchange, but always maintaining an attitude of respectful listening.

HER : This listening distinguishes the mission from proselytism. This one claims to convert people. But it is God who converts hearts! Our mission consists of making Christ present in the world through our way of being, by loving people, by helping them to get back on their feet, to give meaning to their existence… Basically, there is an issue of conversion for the ‘Church. It must be a servant Church, and give up attracting people to itself.

In Protestantism as in Catholicism, the idea of ​​a “listening” Church seems far from being shared…

J.-PV: Pope Francis is criticized for this welcoming attitude. The question of the Church’s relationship to the world divides us even within our institutions. For some, the Church is missionary by being first and foremost a teacher. But if the Church has indeed a teaching to share, it must first love people as they are, dialogue with them. The priority given to dogmas reveals a preoccupation with identity.

HER : A concern which manifests, in my opinion, a fear of the other, whether evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal, Muslim… A fear of dying, ultimately. This reflects a fragility, a lack of hope in the Resurrection.

Differences in sensitivity in Christian communities blur their testimony. How can we move towards greater communion?

J.-PV: For us, Catholics, the hierarchy constitutes the main guarantor of communion, but the current synod will inexorably evolve the way in which authority is exercised. Pope Francis’ initiatives (develop synodality, authorize the blessing of homosexual couples, Editor’s note) shake up the proponents of hierarchical functioning, because the Bishop of Rome, at the top of the hierarchy, himself moves the lines. At my level, in the small diocesan Church of Algiers, it is easy to have a collegial functioning. But I think that this will develop more widely: the baptized become aware of also being the Church.

HER : I am not used to talking about “communion”. It’s very… Catholic. Among Protestants, we are quite good at tearing each other apart, creating dissident churches. Certainly, hierarchy is necessary for human groups, but Protestants have chosen to live it differently from Catholics, by eliminating the clergy* and “lifetime” positions. Our mandates are elective, collegial and temporary. This at least prevents clericalism from becoming systemic. So we try to decide together, taking the time to discuss, in a synodal approach. Sometimes it’s desperate, because we don’t move forward as quickly as we would like.

On the end of life, the blessing of homosexual couples, there are disagreements in the two faiths that you represent…

HER : There will never be unanimity. But let’s return to the idea of ​​a serving Church. Is it better for it to help people think and decide for themselves or to think for them and tell them what to do? I believe that in a secularized society, some people may feel secure in the opinion given by an authority, but overall, they are mostly attached to deciding for themselves. Helping people to think, to mature a decision, proves delicate, particularly when we believe that they are wrong. However, respect for their freedom is imperative.

Jean-Paul Vesco, do you have the same position regarding pastoral support?

Quite. The debates among Catholics on the blessing of homosexual couples point to an illusion: believing that the Church could be normative today. But homosexual people do not wait for authorization from the Church to get married! Moreover, Pope Francis has not changed anything in doctrinal standards. The indissoluble and fruitful marriage between a man and a woman remains the sacrament of life. Francis only encouraged priests to reach out to those who cannot receive this sacrament, to tell them: “The Lord is there, he loves you. » I draw a parallel with these parents who, discovering their child’s homosexuality, may be tempted to reject him. But they love their child, get to know his or her partner, see the beauty of their love, and end up welcoming him or her home. This is their way of blessing them.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends. What beauty do you see in the other’s Church?

J.-PV: The Protestant model is for me a very strong source of inspiration: it empowers the baptized, makes room for women in the ministry of the Word and lives synodality. How can we transpose it to us, Catholics, without losing what we hold dear? I think that Pope Francis has initiated an essential evolution.

HER : I would first like to say that I am part of the same Church as John Paul: we are the same Church of Christ. The stories of ruptures, of identity, of exclusion from our respective camps do not concern us. That said, from the Catholic Church, I receive as a blessing the sense of the sacred, of the beauty, of the holiness of God among us. People today need this. I receive a second blessing from the Catholic confession: our differences put a limit to our pride, prevent us from claiming to possess the truth! And a third: the sense of “we” of Catholics. For us Protestants, the “I” is essential, but let us not forget communion. And I admire the courage of Pope Francis in trying to maintain this communion while opening doors.

* In Protestantism, pastoral ministry is carried out by lay people, men or women, married or not, under the common priesthood of the baptized.

The biographies of Samuel Amédro and Jean-Paul Vesco

Samuel Amedro

Jean-Paul Vesco

  • March 10, 1962. Birth in Lyon.
  • 1988. Lawyer.
  • 1995. Dominican religious.
  • 2001. Ordained priest.
  • 2011-2012. Prior of the French province of the Dominicans.
  • 2012. Bishop of Oran.
  • 2021. Archbishop of Algiers.
  • 2023. Obtains Algerian nationality.

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