For the resignation of Archbishop Luc Ravel, 66, from his post as Archbishop of Strasbourg, submitted on April 20, to be valid, it was necessary that the Pope, and the President of the Republic, accept it at the same time, according to the specific legal rules of the concordat statute of this French diocese.
It is done, this Saturday at noon, the Vatican confirmed the acceptance, by Pope Francis, of this resignation; it was jointly accepted by Emmanuel Macron, by decree signed on May 24 and published in the French Official Journal, dated May 27.
The episcopal see is vacant. Philippe Ballot, Archbishop of Metz, is appointed Apostolic Administrator to manage current affairs. The specificity of the concordat law requires that this diocesan administrator is formally elected by the chapter of the cathedral of Strasbourg, composed of a dozen canons.
Several names are circulating on the one who will soon replace Bishop Ravel, but the special status of Strasbourg and the importance of this region require a very experienced candidate.
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The pope will choose the successor. The name will be transmitted sub secreto to the Presidency of the French Republic for validation. It will be announced, together, by Rome and Paris. A vacancy in an episcopal see can last several months.
Especially since the departure of Bishop Ravel, appointed in February 2017, is anticipated. Usually an archbishop of this level remains in office until the age of 75.
His departure is not linked to matters of morality concerning him – precision is important in the current context – but to an "apostolic visit", dispatched by the Holy See in June 2022, highlighted problems of governance, up to a form of rejection observed among a good part of the Alsatian clergy.
It is true that Bishop Ravel was one of the strong personalities of the French episcopate. Former bishop to the armies before Strasbourg, he is a polytechnician by training, member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, and religious, from the Congregation of Canons Regular of Saint-Victor.
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He was also noted for his promptness in dealing with sexual abuse. And many, including moderates, have however criticized him for a certain "authoritarianism" in the governance of this diocese, especially with its senior cadres. A very special diocese moreover, where priests are paid by the State and are appointed, by the bishop but in agreement with the... prefect.
In a long exclusive interview with the weekly La Vie on May 22, Archbishop Ravel acknowledged these difficulties and explained them frankly: "The root of the problem has always been governance," said the archbishop, who explains that the pope asked him to resign, especially for "this difficulty I would have with priests, who are terrified by the way I deal with abuse. 'You're doing too much,' he told me."
The former archbishop concludes: "I do not dispute any clumsiness on my part, and I have no claim to infallibility." But he denies having shown authoritarianism: "I have never made a decision without consulting around me. Not necessarily my diocesan advice, but personal advice: lawyers, doctors...»