Paris archbishop intercedes to Mary for France's protection
'Violence is always an injustice. Injustice is the consequence that we are being badly treated, that we are undervalued,' says Archbishop Michel Aupetit.
Yellow vests protesters at the Champs-Elysées on the evening of Dec. 8. (Photo by Lucas Barioulet/AFP)
In the crowded nave of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, Archbishop Michel Aupetit’s homily on Dec. 7 resonated with the strains of a night before of conflict.
“This ceremony is consecrated to peace, in order to protect our country through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, so that peace reigns in all hearts,” he said as he opened the solemn ceremony for the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
On the evening before another day of protests by the “Yellow Vests” movement, and while many commentators were predicting outbursts of widespread violence, the Archbishop of Paris turned towards the Virgin Mary, asking her to “look after our country” and to help the protesters return to the path of dialogue.
“Are we still capable of listening to one another? And are we still capable of speaking to one another?” he asked.
“For it is only by doing so that the violence in the heart of human beings can be exorcised. Violence is always an injustice. Injustice is the consequence that we are being badly treated, that we are undervalued, and that we are not being given the respect that we deserve.”
Commenting on a reading from the book of Genesis, Archbishop Aupetit then addressed the large congregation, urging them towards brotherhood.
“God asks us one thing: What have you done to your brother? And Cain replied, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
Perhaps this is the essential question that is asked of us today, tomorrow, and in the following days: ‘Does my brother matter to me?’”
In the face of the crisis that he first addressed in his homily of Dec. 2, three weeks after the Yellow Vests movement began, Archbishop Aupetit appealed to the faithful to be inspired by the example of the Virgin Mary, after recounting the story of the Annunciation.
“Mary teaches us to fully welcome the gift of the Lord. This is why we turn to her. This is why we entrust our country to her in these painful and difficult times, so that she may bring peace to all hearts, so that everyone may find the path to dialogue, the path to kindness, the path to respect.”
The consequence of individualism
At the end of the Mass, many of the congregation spoke of their sadness about the violence, but also about the distress of the disadvantaged.
“I came to pray to the Virgin Mary to help us to raise our heads again,” said Madeleine Renedo-Klein, a retiree from the Paris region. “Many people are in distress. The authorities must understand this.”
Like Renedo-Klein, before coming to Mass, Cécile Astrain had read the message published on Dec. 5, in which the archbishop denounced “the generalized lack of understanding.”
He explained that this is the consequence of an individualism that has become “the principal value to the detriment of the common good, which is founded on consideration of others and, in particular, those who are most vulnerable.”
“I found the archbishop’s message well-considered and correct,” she said.
“He didn’t take a particular stance, but he spoke of injustice, and of arrogant attitudes. These exist, but do not justify violence. Peace is necessary for justice,” she went on as she walked out into the wet courtyard.
Through the window of a bar where they went after Mass, two friends watched the flow of people coming out of the cathedral.
Louis, 24, admitted that he is worried and shocked about the threats made to members of the government but that he is also “deeply saddened to see that neither the violence of the radicals nor the government’s response is resulting in any solution to help the suffering of the underprivileged, who are invisible.”
“I agree with Archbishop Aupetit. Our nation is lacking a spirit of brotherhood and respect,” said Maxence de Pommery, 25, regretfully.
“We are a secular country. The solution is evidently not religion. However, as a Christian, I believe that Christ brings a response to the suffering of human beings.
In this individualistic society, the Virgin Mary, who gave her life to the Lord, is an example we should follow to remove the obstacles that prevent us from loving our neighbors, and to remind us that human beings carry within themselves a fundamental dignity.”