In memory of Jacques Gaillot, Bishop of the Excluded

Yesterday, April 12, at the age of 88, Monsignor Gaillot, Bishop of Evreux (France) from 1982 to 1995, died. He was a peaceful and energetic man, passionate about justice for all the excluded, a prophet of the Good News of Jesus, of a fraternal world, of a human Church.

He supported conscientious objection against military service, denounced apartheid, the sale of arms and all forms of colonialism; he promoted pacifist and anti-military actions; he advocated secular education; he defended the Palestinian, Saharawi and Kurdish people…; he defended the cause of refugees, immigrants, the divorced, homosexuals and those marginalized for any reason. For all this, many conservative Catholics called him the worst enemy of the Church.

And he paid his price without losing his peace or energy. Cardinal Gantin, Dean of the College of Cardinals and Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops under John Paul II, summoned him to Rome on January 13, 1995, and told him: “Tomorrow at noon you will no longer be Bishop of Evreux. If you sign, you will be bishop emeritus of Evreux. If you do not sign, you will be a transferred bishop. You have a few hours to think about it.

Jacques Gaillot did not sign, and was named “bishop of Partenia”, a diocese that disappeared under the sands of Mauritania more than 1000 years ago, converted by the dismissed bishop into an open, universal one, without any kind of frontier.

In the following lines I gather some words of his from an interview conducted and published in 2016 by the Conférence Catholique des Baptisé-e-s Francophones:

A humane society is judged according to the way it treats the most fragile, those who are unemployed, homeless, without papers, on the street… A society that shows itself incapable of respecting the weakest cannot know peace.

As I left Evreux, in my last sermon in the cathedral, I said to the crowd: ‘Every Christian, every community, every Church that does not take, first and foremost, the ways of human persons, has no chance of being heard as the bearer of Good News. Every Christian, every community, every Church that does not become first and foremost fraternal with every human being, will not be able to find the way of his heart, the secret place where this Good News can be received’ “.

– What is the phrase of the Gospel that speaks to you most?
– “Abide in my love. Jesus dwells in me. He is there, wherever I go, whatever I do. I speak to him as one speaks to a friend. I sit in the Father’s hands and, as the psalmist says: Though I walk through a valley of darkness, I will fear no evil“.

REST AND LIVE, Jacques, brother and master.