Pontian Pata, parish priest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), arrived in France in 2005 for what was to be a sabbatical year. In fact, it should remain until 2009 for four years in addition to the parish of ChÃ¢teaudun, in the Diocese of Chartres, partner of Casungo, his place of worship of connecting. Pontian Pata knows well the France for there have trained for four years at the University Lille-III, and then another to three years in Paris-VIII, while each time a pastoral service. "Our Catholicism in the DRC, Editor's note is that one hundred and twenty years and we have much to learn from a country where it was two thousand years ago." "We want to inspire the work of the French Church on topics that start profiling we: decrease of the faithful, rise in power of islam", continues the Congolese prelate.
These priests, such as Pontian Pata, "venus also" are more than appreciated in France, where vocations are declining. And many more to come: 1,100 identified to date, derived mainly from Africa, but also other Francophone countries. A point that the Conference of major superiors and the Bishops of France found an urgent need to create four years ago, a home cell to accompany, train and inform these foreigners. Because, here and there, the bishops gave the alert to the need to better regulate some of these expatriates.
CSD well framed
"That these priests feel frustration, it's mandatory." "Culture is different and we must help them fit and meet their wonders," says Father Jean Forgeat, responsible of the host cell. And to promote their integration, it proposes a first course, "welcome", for newcomers to familiarize them with the French Church. The second session, "Trade", organized later, is designed to make the point.
"We are not of the slave traders using priests of poor nations to plug holes." These are North-South relations related to the missions. "However, should not Africa is stripped of its priests as, despite the current context, our ratio reported among faithful, is greater than their", continues the Forgeat father. But he stressed the mutual enrichment. "By their enthusiasm, they bring us an extraordinary breath", attests the father Pierre-Yves Michel, Vicar General of the Diocese of Lyon which will total seven foreign to the next re-entry priests. At the same time, and according to the tradition of past missions, 165 French diocesan priests to add more than 3,000 missionary congregations and institutes evangelize others.
Contracts "fidei donum", by reference to the transmission of the faith, pass by the bishops and are well framed. For a period of three years renewable once, they define the rights and duties of each. Among the 1,100 foreign priests, 335 are studies, others come for health care, to escape a political system or for various reasons. And as in the civilian population, some are illegal.
Certainty: "When their situation is regular, they are not difficult to find a position." In fact, between 1995 and 2006, the quota of the diocesan priests increased from 22,500 15.440 and clerics who are assigned a parish of 6.280 to 5.083, according to the statistics kept by the Service of vocations in France. Both perspectives are not only concerned the clergy: the average age of the priests was 69 years in 2005 and 46 were older than 75 years. At the same time, the curve of seminarians has decreased: they were 247 in the first year in 1995 and 133 in 2007, of which 16 are foreign, Vietnamese for more than half.
In the Diocese of Viviers, ArdÃ¨che, a parish now includes on average 25 steeples. And last June, was ordained the first priest for seven or eight years. "Should we can welcome twenty new over the next 20 years, because some parishes are understaffed of young priests", reflects monseigneur FranÃ§ois Blondel, Bishop of Viviers. So far, he has made the choice to welcome that foreigners crossing doing studies which is currently the case of two Malians now and in retirement, he says search for one of its parishes two or three priests, obviously sent by their bishops for officer over a longer period, in being mentored by a French prelate. "A many things will be easier for them," says Monsignor Blondel. However, it ensures that the life of a priest is not the penal colony. It is that one day a week to blow and is able to dispose of three weeks of continuous holidays, plus one of retirement.
Seeking to temper things, father Pierre - Yves Michel insists however on the large number of laymen who come lend a hand with the support of certain services: catechesis, pastoral, etc. But if cities remain well off, is much different in rural areas, where need to pool the means.
Given this situation, the Diocese of BesanÃ§on has taken an original initiative. From the image too often told on Catholic priests, considered an endangered species, he launched the 'priest Academy", a video on the Web. "We opted for information tool preferred young people who we want to consider this mission." To stroke of brilliance, we have tapped into reality by reversing the codes of the "Star Academy". "Three men and thirty priests speak of their priesthood", says Father Eric Ponsot, responsible for the service of the vocations of BesanÃ§on and the origin of the idea. Result: the video stirs up the curiosity of the Internet and a survey of 1,000 to 2,000 people "showed that 65 of them have less than 35 years." The target is reached.