Log-book: March 2005
In Rome Saint Vincent Day Toulouse The new face of Partenia
At Christmas time I was surprised to receive a fraternal invitation to meet with the principal cardinal of the bishop congregation. « If you so wish » had he specified.
Nine years had passed since my last meeting with the Vatican authorities. The 45 minutes meeting with the cardinal was cordial. Nothing else was to be expected from this contact. This was a first meeting..
He had received my last book : « Carnets de route (My log-book) ». One of his colleagues had taken the time to read it and had told him: « There are some unusual ideas in this book ! ».
The cardinal showed his surprise in seeing that I was happy as bishop of Partenia. His concern : my relations with the other bishops .
The cardinal Etchegaray, as well as the ambassador for France to Vatican, were very happy to see this meeting take place. No doubt a necessary step.
Relations are established that communion exists.
Saint Vincent Day
For the vine growers from the mountain of Rheims, the Saint Vincent Day, on January 22nd, is a very important one. It is a tradition to which the people are attached. The feast was held this year on a Saturday, it was a very sunny day.
Invited to preside the Saint Vincent Holy Mass in Hautvillers, I started the day by attending the breakfast of the wine growers. Food and wine were abundant. I can tell you I was surprised to see the capacity of these men to drink champagne and red wine so early in the morning.
After the traditional parade in the streets, with the costumed wine growers, the crowd filled the large abbey. In the choir lies the body of Dom Perignon, the creator of champagne. The celebration was meaningful, filled with joy.
Afterwards, the population went to the magnificent hall of the wine press in the gardens of the abbey. There I was unable to count all the people happy to speak to me and take pictures.
The meal was joyful and the wine flowed freely. Useless to make a miracle like in Cana, the reserves were abundant!
While I was in the Ville Rose, a group of homeless people asked me to visit them. They had set up their tent near the cenotaph to the dead in the town centre.
In the falling snow and the freezing wind about 10 people met me. For one hour, I stayed to listen to their revolt.
They are unable to find shelter under the Garonnette bridge to spend the night because the city has installed small metallic bumps making it impossible to lie down. They are deprived of the shelter from the bridge.
The spokesman of the group pointed his finger to the bus shelter close by: « The bench has been transformed into two seats from three. It is impossible to lie down. It is easy to see we are not welcome in the town centre ».
In Toulouse, the largest airplane in the world, the Airbus A 380, has just been inaugurated but it is impossible to find a place for the homeless.
Forbidding the homeless from the town centre will not help Toulouse's image.
The new face of Partenia
January was the time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Partenia. At the Labour Exchange in Paris, the hall filled quickly with people coming from all over France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, not counting the people with no official papers, the Basques, the Iranians
Believers or non-believers, it was the time of renewed friendships and brotherhood as well as shared joy. Frontiers fell. We are at liberty to say how the events of January 1995 have put us on the road and provoked commitments filled with prospects for the future.
10 years already! Firstly, it is a celebration for the people of Partenia. My great joy is to be present in the middle of all these people whose faces I recognize. The title of my first book comes back to me: « They have given me so much happiness.-Ils m'ont donné tant de bonheur.- ».
Suddenly, someone comes into the hall, supported by his parents. He was on short leave from hospital because he insisted to attend this meeting of Partenia. For many weeks he does not open his eyes and his conversation gets confused quickly. But in a sudden surge of energy, he stands by himself and speaks clearly in the great silence. A message of hope. A message opening up on the future.
Each time I visit him at the hospital he speaks of this great moment he lived at Partenia.
This January 15th gathering was a surprising moment of grace for everyone.