Archbishop Laurent Ulrich, 70, who has been archbishop of Lille since 2008, has been appointed by Pope Francis to lead the diocese of Paris. After the shock caused by the resignation of Archbishop Michel Aupetit, accepted by the Pope on December 2, Rome has chosen an experienced bishop from outside Paris. The interim appointment of Bishop Georges Pontier as Apostolic Administrator will end with the installation Mass of Bishop Ulrich on May 23.
With 22 years as a bishop and known for his administrative skills, Pope Francis has chosen to call upon an experienced voice to lead France’s most visible diocese.
During his service in the North, Bishop Ulrich was always attentive to dialogue with the political world, and he was notably responsible for presiding over the funeral of former Lille mayor and former Socialist Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy in 2013. His interpersonal skills will be an important asset in his new position in Paris, which involves regular contact with municipal authorities as well as with the government and the President of the Republic.
He was also recognized for his rigor in dealing with cases of abuse of minors, not hesitating to firmly dismiss priests and assuming a full availability to listen to the victims.
A non-Parisian for the first time since 1968
The last appointment of a non-Paris native to head the diocese of Paris was on March 26, 1968, when Paul VI called Archbishop François Marty of Rheims, who brought his Aveyron accent to the capital for 13 years of an eventful episcopate, marked by the departure of many priests. His three successors – Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (1981-2005), Cardinal André Vingt-Trois (2005-2017) and Bishop Michel Aupetit (2017-2021) – came from the Parisian clergy, who have also provided many bishops to other dioceses in France.
The contribution of a personality from outside the diocese was desired by many priests and faithful, in order to escape from a certain internal-focus that is harmful to the efficiency of the government of a prestigious but complex diocese.
The first “work site” of the new archbishop, both literally and figuratively, will naturally be the reconstruction of Notre Dame de Paris and its return to worship, promised for 2024, five years after the fire of April 15, 2019. His ability to dialogue with the political world and his management and administrative skills will probably be useful in guaranteeing the full return of the cathedral to the center of the Church’s life in Paris.
In his first message to the diocesan faithful of Paris, released with the announcement of his appointment, Bishop Ulrich addressed them as “friends,” explaining that his ministry “comes from Christ himself who always presents himself as the friend of all, at all times and in all places.”
“I come to you with the ‘joy of believing’ that has been my motto for a long time,” he said.