A bishop in a mission land

2012-07-09 L’Osservatore Romano

The memory of Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris from 1940 to 1949, is still linked to the famous title – La France, pays de mission? – published in Lyons on 12 September 1943 and written by Henri Godin and Yvan Daniel, two chaplains of the Jeunesse ouvrière catholique [Catholic Youth Movement]. A year before the Cardinal had asked them to draft a report on the religious situation of the Parisian workers' milieus. Four years later it was this same cardinal in Lisieux, on the 50th anniversary of the death of St Thérèse, who confirmed the anti-clairvoyant diagnosis of the two priests which had gone around the world: “Let us not deceive ourselves: in the future it will not only be our homeland but the whole world that risks being 'a mission land'; what we are living through today will in turn be lived by the peoples”.  And it is precisely the missionary key that the sociologist Jean-Pierre Gérand uses to reconstruct the Cardinal's Parisian episcopate in a splendid book that opens with a preface by Émile Poulat (Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard archevêque de Paris [1940-1949]. Temps de guerre, temps de paix, passion pour la Mission, Paris, Les Éditions  du Cerf, 2011, 370 pages, € 27), following the two books dedicated to him in 1965 by Olivier de la Brosse (Cerf) and subsequent the 1993 biography written by Jean Vinatier (Centurion). A towering spiritual figure, Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard, Poulat writes, was “primarily concerned with the Church's  presence in the midst of men and women and with her future, which depend partly on her daring and freedom of spirit. This was his strength and his great idea”.