Cardinal Vingt-Trois, the Archbishop of Paris who could become Pope. He has fought the French government on 'the fraud of gay-marriage'

The first thing that you notice about the Archbishop of Paris is that he has
impeccable manners. The quintessential French gentleman, he is softly spoken
and quick to open a door for women. During his time in Dublin at the 50th
International Eucharistic Congress in June 2012, he would take strolls around the area of the Royal Dublin Society, and he won the hearts of ordinary Dubliners who took a shine to this gentle, smiling cardinal with a strong Parisian accent. During his life as a priest he has written widely on priestly formation, and it was no surprise that at the Congress, he spoke about the formation of seminarians.

André Vingt-Trois was born in the heart of Paris in November 1942.
Vingt-Trois’ is not a typical French surname. It translates as ‘23’, which is intriguingly enigmatic, until Cardinal Vingt-Trois explains that the name was first given to one of his ancestors who was abandoned as an infant and found on the 23rd day of the month. 

In the 1950s, he attended Lycée Henri IV, which is on the Left Bank of the
River Seine. Then from the start to the finish of Vingt-Trois's seminary education, he experienced the two worlds of the Church of the 1960s. In
1962, the world of pre-Vatican II was still the norm when he entered the
Seminary of Saint-Sulpice as a fresh-faced 20-year-old. The new world after
Vatican II was beginning when he was ordained in 1969. Fr Vingt-Trois
started out as a parish priest, and then later became a professor of
sacramental and moral theology.

The first time he came to prominence was in the 1980s, as a close collaborator of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the cardinal who was of Jewish origin and a close disciple of John Paul II. The high point of the 1990s for Fr Vingt-Trois was that he was consecrated Archbishop of Tours in 1999, a post he held until 2005 when he became the Archbishop of Paris. In 2007, he was elevated to the College of Cardinals. Pope Benedict personally appointed him to serve as one of the Synod Fathers for the October 2012 for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelisation.

Now, in 2013, the eyes of the world are watching him because he is papabile.
British Catholics who labour against the same-sex marriage Bill have a
special reason for watching Cardinal Vingt-Trois. As France’s number one
prelate he has not held back on his criticism of the socialist government’s
attempts to legalise gay marriage. Cardinal Vingt-Trois has stepped up to
the plate by frequently appearing on French television to argue the case for
marriage between a man and a woman. Cardinal Vingt-Trois has been
interrogated and heckled by presenters but, remarkably, has kept his nerve,
appearing serene, relaxed and even smiling in the midst of hostility.
The fact that the Archbishop of Paris has withstood the media glare and
argued the case against the re-definition of marriage has strengthened the
position of French Catholics. Perhaps, were he to become pope, he would be a
great ally for British Catholics.

Moreover, he has reminded the French government that while it is
spearheading gay marriage legislation, there are rising poverty levels in France, which are keenly affecting women. 57 per cent of people living in poverty are women, compared to 50 per cent 10 years ago. Speaking in very stark terms, he challenged politicians to be less concerned with ‘the fraud of gay marriage’ and more cognisant of ‘factory closings, rising unemployment, growing insecurity of the poorest families’. At a conference for French bishops in 2012 held in Lourdes, Cardinal Vingt-Trois noted that the Left-wing politicians were focusing the public's attention on modifying marriage laws, an issue he called ‘secondary’, while not doing enough to help the  increasingly numbers of women living below the poverty line.

Repeatedly at different speaking engagements, he has urged Catholics to
mobilise against gay marriage, especially as the French parliament will vote
on it during 2013. Gay activists have pilloried him as a ‘fundamentalist’
and insisted he should not speak out about a political issue because he is a
religious leader. But they are silent about whether the French government is
spending unnecessary time and resources on gay marriage when there are
escalating numbers of people who are not sure if they have enough money to
eat. The Archbishop of Paris is called ‘homophobic’, but he lets the name-calling wash off him, insisting that ‘denouncing the fraud of same-sex marriage does not prevent us from understanding the need homosexuals feel for recognition’.

While he has a much more low-key personality himself, Cardinal Vingt-Trois
sees Blessed John Paul II as a role model and defends the legacy of the
Polish pope. Speaking on prime-time French television, a presenter coyly asked Cardinal Vingt-Trois why Pope John Paul was so loved when the fact that he was ‘so conservative’ would surely turn people off. Cardinal Vingt-Trois did not miss a beat and said frankly to the presenter that perhaps not everyone loved John Paul II for his orthodoxy, but they loved him because he inspired them with hope. Age is likely to be a major deciding factor in the next conclave. Cardinal
Vingt-Trois is 70, 15 years younger than Benedict XVI. But lest we forget,
Pope Benedict was 78 when he ascended to the See of Peter.

I wrote this for The Catholic Herald


  1. Another good article from you, Mary, but I drew this post to the attention of a family member who used to live in Paris and got the following in response:

    Arch-liberal compared to Benedict. He is anti-TLM, terribly bad liturgically, and a fairly recent convert to the pro-life cause. The fact that he has been attacking gay marriage merely bears witness to the French episcopate's total lack of leadership and backbone in previous years and against previous governments.

    He's a nice and good humoured person, and certainly conservative for France, but that still puts him slightly to the left of Vincent Nichols*. Though- unlike many French bishops- he may be personally orthodox, he's not going to do anything to combat heresy.

    *If you think there aren't "gay masses" in Paris:

    1. Hi Hamish Redux,

      Thank you for your detailed comment. Like many of the cardinals, he may be liberal in comparison to Benedict. If I get the chance to interview Archbishop Vingt-Trois, I'll bring up the TLM and the push for same-sex marriage that will be before the French National Assembly in May/June. But, since, I have not interviewed him, I don't have a precise idea of his thinking.

      But, he has more pro-life credentials than we might imagine. A French pro-lifer told me that the embryo is very close to his heart, that he is very sensitive when it comes to life matters. Maybe the subject of abortion touches a nerve in him, and he cannot be as outspoken in public as he would like. That said, in his book, Quelle societé voulons-nous? (What Society do you want?) he makes a good pro-life case, illustrating that the embryo is a vulnerable human, and that to destroy it, is still annihilating human life, even though the embryo is the most vulnerable form of life.

      With Warmest Wishes,


  2. Here is what I just found on Cardinal Vingt Trois' stand on abortion:

    Paris, France, Feb 20, 2008 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, has expressed his support of a decision by a French court to grant legal status to the unborn.

    The ruling, which unleashed the anger of feminist and pro-abortion organizations in Europe, declared that embryos less than 22 weeks old and that weigh more than one pound are persons under the law.

    The decision comes after three copules, whose miscarried fetuses fell below the previous limit of 22 weeks, sued to register them as family members and give their children a burial. The court agreed the limits were not legally binding and permitted registration. The ruling is now in the hands of the Court of Appeals.

    “The law in France never legalized abortion, it decriminalized it,” Cardinal Vingt-Trois said in an interview with Ouest-France. “We hope the court of Appeals will decide to legitimize the registering of the embryo as a member of the family,” he added.

    “The position of the Church,” he explained, “is that the embryo must be treated as a person.”

    Cardinal Vingt-Trois, who is in the city of Rennes with 60 other French bishops to discuss the defense of human life, recalled that the 1975 law that permitted abortion in France “does not establish a right,” and that over the last 50 years the embryo has been increasingly treated as a thing.

    “We must respect both the beginning of life and the end,” the cardinal stated.

  3. Mary
    I like him and he defends women. Women defend your unborn child.
    Ms. P


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