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Fr. Ivan Brient, a 50-year-old French priest, received an important and honorable appointment from Pope Francis this past October 2 (made public on October 7): he would receive episcopal ordination and become auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Rennes in western France.
But a little more than a month after this news, Fr. Brient officially renounced the episcopal nomination – and the reason has caught the attention of the world.
On October 28, he wrote to the pope asking permission to back out, “with regret, but in peace.” In a public letter, he explained that he did it, “In peace because I know that the Lord always knows how to open new paths, even when we think we are at an impasse.”
On November 16, the pope officially accepted Fr. Brient’s resignation, who then decided to announce it publicly.
That was when the priest revealed that he had been diagnosed with burnout syndrome, and that the symptoms he suffers from are “alarming.”
“These signs enabled me on the one hand to understand that I was tired, and on the other hand, I grasped the tensions that this mission was going to cause in me and that I would have difficulties facing them.”
Simply put, burnout is an extreme level of work-related stress and exhaustion. It’s a condition that’s the result of intense and prolonged stress, resulting from habitual conditions that seriously damage a person’s psychological balance. The symptoms are diverse and can vary according to each person, but can include physical and emotional exhaustion, anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, and other challenges.
Fr. Brient spoke with the Apostolic Nuncio in France, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, and Archbishop Pierre d’Ornellas of Rennes about his condition. They were unanimous in supporting the priest’s decision to back down from his episcopal nomination.
Raymond Centene, bishop of Vannes, and the entire council of the diocese also showed their fraternal support to the priest, who will have a period of rest and therapy before returning to his duties as vicar general in his own diocese of Vannes, where he will remain.