Log-book: November 1999
It is a solemn time in the cathedral of Amiens. The huge crowd adds to the beauty of the edifice, flooded with sun.
At the foot of powerful pillars pointing toward the vault, the candidates for ordination seem to me vulnerable and bereft. The simplicity and the profound sense of the rites of the liturgy are displayed. The imposition of hands by all attending priests is impressive. The congregation deeply understand what it means to become a priest.
I am looking at Daniel, a friend, he is described by the media as a journalist and a psychiatrist. I thanks God for the gift of the Holy Spirit by whom he is made a priest. It is a beginning, Daniel will develop new autonomies for people. His words will be understood by many. He will open new ways of doing and seeing, but people are afraid of being free and it can be very hard to stand!
At the Court
Armand was flying to Bamako in Mali. Moussa, a young boy without legal permit to stay in France was taking this flight with an escort of four policemen. Thanks to Armand, the other passengers got together to refuse this expulsion they consider as unjustified. Armand asked the Captain to get Moussa out of the aircraft and not to allow an expulsion on his flight, as he is entitled to do so. The Captain refused to let Moussa out and instead asked the police to disembark Armand. The passengers' protest prevented to do it. Moussa, who had already spent two months in jail for refusing to leave the country, was pressurized by the policemen threatening him with more jail and abuse and finally he decided to stay on the plane. He was then bound by the feet. In spite of Armand and other passengers endeavor, the plane took off an hour late with Moussa on board.
Back to Paris, Armand was put under arrest at the airport and kept in custody for 17 hours. He was sent to the Bobigny Court for having stopped air traffic for an hour and to have opposed the expulsion of a person without legal permit.
Armand and his lawyer asked me to testify at the Court, and I accepted.
Armand confides in me:" I know I did not obey the laws of my country
by opposing the expulsion, but I have obeyed to some thing more important:
the desire of justice and equal rights. For all of us, it is our duty to
abolish all discrimination in French laws, the same rights should be given
to French citizens and immigrants. It is what I did in that plane, and I
will carry on. It can be illegal but it is fair" The Court will deliberate.
A Protestant minister invited me to the Condorcet Association at Ferney. I was happy to be in that small city where Voltaire lived his last years. Thanks to him, Ferney has been the place where the elite came from all over Europe. In his castle he wrote so many articles in favor of human rights and from there he denounced the scandalous Calas affair. Jean Calas, a Protestant, was tortured and put to death, unjustly accused of having killed his son for preventing him to adhere to the catholic faith.
The Protestant minister wanted me to meet some officials from Geneva at a country buffet. For the occasion he called upon a young man in the hotel business to help him in order to be available for his guests. His name was Joseph. He was standing near by, ready to serve and to refill the empty plates.
Late in the evening, guests got up and left without a word, without a
look, without a sign to Joseph who helped them. After their departure I
said to Joseph:" I am astonished that those officials went away without
paying attention to you". He replied: " I have been hurt"
and he added:" For those people I don't exist". The Minister had
the last word: " and those people think they are Socialists!
A country of large open spaces
I am coming back to Quebec, when trees of Autumn wear their most beautiful colored gowns. I am delighted by this feast of colors. I am going to have an heavy schedule: meetings, liturgies, conferences, radio and television interviews. I remember three outstanding events.
In the women's prison: drinking coffee with the women, we rapidly get acquainted, they appreciate some body coming from elsewhere, bringing some fresh ideas. These women are young, they suffer from loneliness and they show me some photographs of their children. To be separated from their family is very hard for them. A jail, however well equipped, is always a place without freedom.
Meeting with some Catholics from St. Paul Parish; they deal with human suffering. They don't only tell me what they are doing but how they have been transformed after meeting them. Listening to them I feel full of admiration. A woman who meet with psychiatric patients tell us:" They taught me to be true, to discover my weakness and my limits, they have revealed to me the unconditional love of God".
A forum at Joliette about the different ages of life: a three day forum with a very active party. I spoke about old age. The life expectancy has increased. It is a victory, but it is not enough to add years to your life, it is adding more life to your years which mainly matters. Life expectancy can be at the expense of the meaning of life. What is the need to add more years to ones life if your life has no meaning?
PS: Partenia some figures, 1998