At family lunch time in Anne Soupa's second home in Vallouise (Hautes-Alpes), this Thursday of the Ascension, the expected appointment of a successor to Archbishop Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon who has resigned, invites himself to the lively discussion table. "Pff, it will still be a man of the same clerical mold," grumbles the mistress of the place, 73 years old and capped theologian having piloted biblical journals. "But mom, introduce yourself, what do you have to lose?" Replies his younger son Henri, 39, who imagines him as ... "primate of the Gauls". Bursts of laughter.
"It ended there, in the state of a schoolboy joke," remembers the son. “In fact, the idea had entered my head. The following night, I had nightmares with a wolf with shiny eyes. I was transgressing, and it scared me. But the wolf didn't jump on me. When I woke up, I decided: I'm going! She says.
And to draw his punchy pen to write a profession of faith addressed to the editors: "What is crazy is that it sounds crazy when it is not ..." "I said to myself: if there is no there is no media reaction, I am charred ”, relates, in her Parisian apartment in the (chic) 7th arrondissement, this mother of four joined to a retired banking executive.
But here, even in the middle of a pandemic, this spontaneous candidacy sent to the apostolic nuncio in France, the Pope's ambassador, made quite a buzz. She propels this faithful feminist to the fore, previously known only to Catholic circles, and especially those of the capital. The laymen discover the rebel of the naves who, in the past, demanded the decanonization of John Paul II because he "made the cause of women go backwards", or even advocated celibacy "optional" for the clerics and therefore the ordination of married men.
With her small voice, her frail silhouette, her pepper and salt square with a connotation of the 16th arrondissement and her white jacket, the intellectual nevertheless carries with her all the clichés of the "catho" blessed-yes-yes. “It's all the uniqueness of Anne. We don't want to be suspicious of her. She looks like a very bourgeois bourgeois cat, clean on her. But it is a bomb, a gifted and determined rhetorician, who can overthrow an assembly, "praises his friend from all the fighting, Christine Pedotti, who runs the committed newspaper" Christian Testimony ".
His revolutionary approach seeks to highlight the invisibility of the fairer sex in the Church, often confined to the functions of "caté lady, flower attendant or choir leader". “The Church missed the meeting for the emancipation of women in the 1960s. After Vatican Council II, we went back. So now, she must not miss the emancipation of men drowned in the landmarks of the past, ”she lectured.
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By standing as a candidate, she puts "her feet in the holy water font". We never apply for a bishop's office, we are "called" by the sovereign pontiff. And to be able to wear a purple cap, you must first have been ordained a priest, a priesthood accessible only to these unmarried gentlemen. A false debate for the one who wishes to distinguish "the governance of the diocese" (which could be open to a woman) from "ordained ministry" and its share of the sacraments. "I don't want to be a priest, I want to proclaim the Gospel," she insists. She sees a fundamental virtue "to include difference" in this male monopoly. “There would be no more esprit de corps. The priests live in the meantime, protect each other, "she denounces, referring to the scandals of sexual abuse stifled by the omerta.
She has disciples even in the Roman collar camp. “His gesture is a stroke of genius at the com level, of the order of prophetic intention. Breaking with the diagram in mind, he asked: a woman archbishop, why not? »Decrypts Father Daniel Duigou, psychoanalyst and priest (maverick) of the diocese of Paris. A support petition has collected nearly 17,000 signatures, including that of the former environmental minister, Cécile Duflot. On Twitter, Marlène Schiappa, then Secretary of State for Gender Equality, salutes the woman who "invites bridled women to apply wherever they feel called".
"Anne Soupa invites bridled women to apply wherever they feel called"
The episcopate remains discreet, hesitating to openly unzip an initiative which finds a favorable response in public opinion. "She acts by provocation!" Like any provocation, this can annoy, but also make you think, ”confided carefully Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, in the wake of the shocking declaration. A biblical colleague is more offensive, judging in the press that "the extremism of this announcement is a good excuse not to hear it".
The violence of his “tradis” enemies
On the grounds of her chalet in the heart of the Ecrins massif, Anne Soupa sometimes felt undesirable. "During a mass in the pastures, people did not want to greet me," regrets this specialist in Judas. But nothing to do with the violence of social networks. Galvanized by anonymity, her “tradis” enemies blacklist this “black sheep”, “heretic”, “enlightened feminist, Marxist and as Catholic as a zucchini”.
"Lord, help us fight evil," begs one of them, crucifying her with "vade retro satana". It takes more to weaken the optimist who has conquered two cancers. “Mum is a fighter who feeds on malicious attacks. When she is called a witch, it strengthens her, reassures her. She inherited from her father a freedom to think ”, admires the son Henri.
This model father is Henri Beaugé-Bérubé, companion of the Liberation. At 20, he answered the Call of June 18, 1940, joining, with his brother, the English coast. "His mother said: The Germans are coming, go! Narrates Anne Soupa.
Among his family, we like to “obey his conscience”: the grandfather, an officer, left the national navy to become an oceanographer; the uncle, worker-priest, left for the Kerguelen Islands when Pope Pius XII, having a blue fear of “red” priests, dissolved the movement in 1954. His mother was also resistant, active within the network of the Catholic chaplaincy of Sciences-po, crossing the dividing line without counting, before being imprisoned in Fresnes in 1944.
The hero's daughter takes her first steps in West Germany, then in a "bled" of the Atlas in Morocco, turned "towards the knowledge of Islam". "My parents were opening Catholics, with convictions, but few cultural demonstrations," she recalls. In 1963, his mother went up to paradise, plagued by 40 years of breast cancer. "I was a withdrawn teenager who suffered in silence and ran after a figure escaping him," she reveals.
She arrives at the Lycée Victor-Duruy in Paris. “She was reserved, different, with great depth. At the time, she was not at all in religion, nor a leader, "recalls her classmate, Maryvonne," thrilled "when she learned that her friend was going to conquer the hill of Fourvière . Brilliant, she joined Sciences-po, before pursuing a career in the banking sector. “I took a certain opposite compared to my mother, whose regret was not to have worked and put to good use her studies. So I said to myself, " I will work, " she smiles.
"My revolt took a long time to mature"
In the 1980s, when her "eldest son was old enough to go to school", she scratched her head: "What good is it to give him? I realized that it could be Catholicism, even if it had not been nourished in recent years, ”she breathes. At the same time, she embarked on ambitious theological studies, discovering "the strength of the Bible as a book of life". "I would like someone to put one on my coffin," she suggests, while specifying that it should not be "buried too quickly". She also realizes that "women have been very mistreated by male reading" of the Scriptures. “There is no gender claim in Jesus. He doesn't order women: It's time to prepare dinner! On the contrary, it frees them, ”she says.
But at that time, she was not in dispute. “I was rather wise, I had to learn. I am a late harvest, my revolt took a long time to mature, ”she confesses. His first glimpse dates back to 2008. On the air at Radio Notre-Dame, Mgr Vingt-Trois, then Archbishop of Paris, skidded: have something in your head. " With her friend, the left-wing Catholic essayist Christine Pedotti, she files a sexism complaint with the ecclesiastical court - which she will withdraw after the cardinal's apologies -, then creates the Skirt Committee to fight against discrimination. regard of women in the Church.
“We want everything, even to be able to be pope. In 2013, at the renunciation of Benedict XVI, she orchestrated the first "female conclave in history" in the "dilapidated" room of a church which serves as the Sistine chapel. “We asked for a pope of mercy. François was elected, so we can say that we have been heard, "she laughs. Against all odds, it defends the pill, the condom or gay marriage. And abortion, this "crime" in the eyes of the Holy Father? "I don't condemn it, but I don't trivialize it either. 200,000 a year is too much, ”she ponders.
His critical vision of the institution upsets, disturbs, indignant the Catholic community. “But there is no frontal opposition, no aggression. Admittedly, it is a little scary, but it is not a Femen catho. Despite her outrageousness, she invites us to ask ourselves questions, ”recognizes a member of the Church of France. The rebellious is not attached to any parish. “When I see a male assembly at the altar, with only male altar boys, I cannot stay. My spiritual nourishment, I found it rather in the great religious orders, in the Jesuits and the Dominicans, more open-minded, ”she describes.
Those who rub shoulders with this personality appearing "very Macronian" know that it can be "sensitive", "empathetic" and "a bit brittle". "Stubborn", but "never dogmatic". "Soft" and "very firm". "Listening" and "authoritarian". Idealistic and… realistic. Even if she believes in miracles, she does not imagine for a second that her CV will receive the blessing of the Vatican, which will soon reveal the identity of the lucky winner.
The induction of Soupa “Maseigneure” is not for tomorrow. The pope of gender equality in the sacristies still hoped for an answer from the apostolic nuncio. “It's very contemptuous for women. Radio silence, not even an acknowledgment! "
April 1, 1947: birth in Paris. Resistance girl.
1947-1958: childhood in West Germany then in Morocco.
1963: death of his mother.
1968: graduate of Sciences-po Paris.
1982: embarks on theological studies.
1991: journalist for "Grain de soleil", "the newspaper for curious children of God".
2008: co-founded the Skirt Committee after sexist remarks by Archbishop Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris.
2009: creates the Catholic Conference of baptized Francophones, who pleads for a sharing of responsibilities between the laity and the clerics.
May 25, 2020: candidate for the post of Archbishop of Lyon, vacant since the resignation of Cardinal Barbarin.