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New Paris archbishop chosen February 09, 2005

Archbishop André Vingt-Trois of Tours, France, will be named to succeed Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, informed Vatican sources report. The nomination will be announced on February 11: the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The selection of a prelate to replace Cardinal Lustiger-- who at 78 is well beyond the ordinary retirement age for a diocesan bishop-- has been the subject of heavy discussion at the Vatican for several months. On January 14, a special commission of Vatican officials met to choose his successor, but after failing to focus on a clear choice the group left the final decision in the hands of Pope John Paul II.

The Holy Father reportedly made his selection at the end of January. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, then submitted the nomination to the French government. Under the terms of an old accord, the Vatican must have formal approval from the French president for the nomination of a new bishop.

Pope John Paul will accept the resignation of Cardinal Lustiger, which was submitted on his 75th birthday, at the same time that he announces the appointment of Archbishop Vingt-Trois.

Cardinal Lustiger, a convert from Judaism and a close ally of Pope John Paul, has had an enormous influence over the French Church since he became Archbishop of Paris in 1981. In naming a former auxiliary bishop of Paris, and a "spiritual son" of the current cardinal, the Vatican has made a clear choice for continuity in the Church leadership in Paris.

Born in Paris on November 7, 1942, André Vingt-Trois entered the St. Sulpice seminary in 1962, and was ordained to the priesthood in Paris by Cardinal Francois Marty in June 1969. After some parish ministry he returned to the seminary as a professor, teaching sacramental theology there for several years. In 1981 he became vicar general of the Parish archdiocese, and auxiliary bishop there in 1988. In 1999 he was named to head the Tours archdiocese.

Regarded as a pragmatist and a man of actions rather than of words, Archbishop Vingt-Trois is already well known and respected by the clergy of Paris. As archbishop of the French capital, he would be among the most likely candidates to be given a cardinal's red hat at the next consistory.