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Pope names Nanterre bishop to head Paris Archdiocese


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PARIS (CNS) -- Pope Francis has named Bishop Michel Aupetit of Nanterre as archbishop of Paris, succeeding Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, who turned 75 in November.

Archbishop Aupetit, whose diocese was west of Paris, was often named as a potential successor to Cardinal Vingt-Trois, who headed the Paris Archdiocese for more than 12 years.

The Catholic newspaper La Croix called the Dec. 7 announcement a "no-surprise" decision with some continuity.

Archbishop Aupetit, 66, was a doctor for 11 years before considering priesthood. He said he once dreamed of being a "traveling missionary."

"As soon as I embrace sedentary life with delight, I have to go somewhere else," he wrote in a letter addressed to the Catholics of Nanterre Dec. 7. "And again, the church gives me a new mission."

Archbishop Aupetit was ordained priest in 1995 for the Paris Archdiocese. In addition to his parish positions, he served as a high school chaplain from 1995 to 2001. From 1997 to 2006, he taught bioethics at Henri-Mondor University Hospital in Creteil. He was vicar general of the Parish Archdiocese, 2006-2014.

He was ordained an auxiliary bishop in Paris in 2013, before being appointed to Nanterre the following year. In March 2017, he became president of the Family and Society Council of the French bishops' conference.

"My priestly life has been a long series of farewells ... in the sense that the call forces me to leave my pastoral comfort zones. If we were in business, I would say that this perpetual motion produces little efficiency. But we are in an ecclesial system and the divine fecundity, which can only come from the Holy Spirit, allows us to keep the necessary humility to follow Christ wherever he guides you," he wrote.

The installation of Bishop Aupetit is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2018, at Notre Dame Cathedral. Cardinal Vingt-Trois will act as apostolic administrator of Paris until then.

In a Dec. 7 message to the Catholics in Paris, Cardinal Vingt-Trois thanked the pope for "relieving him of a burden that exceeded my current strength." He said Paris "needs an archbishop with full capacity for action." In recent years, Cardinal Vingt-Trois' health issues proved to be a challenge for him.

Talking about the future, he wrote that "our times call us to be truly missionaries, so that the knowledge of Jesus Christ meets the expectations of our contemporaries and becomes a hope for them."

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