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Priests in France to use upgraded clergy ID card


© Conférence des évêques de France

The celebret card of the French priests will now include a QR code.

Cécile Séveirac - published on 05/16/23

The French Bishops' Conference have unveiled a new celebret, a kind of identity card for priests, to intensify the fight against sexual abuse in the Church.

On Wednesday, May 10, 2023, the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) unveiled the new “celebret” which will be carried by all priests. They had voted to take this measure in November 2021, during the Plenary Assembly of Lourdes, after the delivery of the CIASE’S report on sexual abuse in the Church. It aims to put in place a national and modernized model of the celebret, which should be updated regularly.

The celebret is a document issued by a priest’s ecclesiastical authority (bishop of his diocese or his major superior) that certifies that the holder is a priest, that he can celebrate Mass, and that he has the faculty to hear confessions. It takes the form of a document that can be requested when the priest travels or during major events. Since 1917, it has made it possible to see, when they exist, the penal infractions committed by the priest. The celebret has existed since the Council of Trent (1542), but has remained relatively unused.

What is changing?

The objective of this new model of the celebret is to spread its use, as well as to “homogenize the document among dioceses” and to “give a means of updating authorizations and restrictions in real time,” explains the CEF. In addition, it aims “to prevent impostors (false priests or deacons) from continuing to act to the detriment of the faithful and the sacraments, by creating a false celebret.”

The format of the celebret card of French priests and bishops

The new celebret will take the form of a personal identification card the same size as a national identity card or a driver’s license. This card will include a photo, the first and last name of the priest, his diocese or community, a personal identifier, and a scannable QR code to access the contents of the digital version of the celebret. The faithful cannot request to see it. Only bishops, priests from other dioceses, or rectors of shrines, for example, will be able to request their presentation.

Color coded

By scanning the QR code available on the priest’s card, Churches and clergy will be able to find out if the priest concerned can or cannot celebrate the sacraments. Thus, the color orange will indicate the existence of restrictions (“celebret ex parte“). The color green will indicate that the priest is entitled to administer all the sacraments.The color red, on the other hand, indicates that the priest is totally forbidden to celebrate the sacraments or that his clerical status has been revoked. The dioceses and major superiors plan to update the celebret every year to guarantee the veracity of the information. If a civil or canonical sanction is imposed, the celebret must be updated immediately.

Bishops have held their national celebret card since March 2023. The 13,000 French priests and the 3,000 permanent deacons are currently working on collecting their data to make the system operational by the beginning of the school year in 2023.

According to the eight-page dossier explaining the new system, produced by the Bishops’ Conference of France, the laity will not have the authority to ask a priest or deacon to produce his card. The cards are intended for use by dioceses and individual parishes, especially to authenticate visiting priests. The dossier likens the the ID to “a press card for journalists or the professional identity card for lawyers.”

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