Papal delegate to govern group co-founded by French Catholic mystic

Papal delegate to govern group co-founded by French Catholic mystic

A detail from a painting of Marthe Robin (1902-1981). / Alessandro Guzzi via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, Feb 12, 2022 / 06:05 am (CNA).

The Vatican has named a papal delegate to oversee an international association co-founded by the French mystic Marthe Robin.

In a decree dated Feb. 3, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, appointed Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard as the pontifical delegate of the Foyers de Charité.

The Foyers de Charité said in a Feb. 10 press release that the decree gave Ricard, the retired archbishop of Bordeaux, southwestern France, the “mission is to govern the association, temporarily, with full governmental powers.”

The decree explained that the 77-year-old French cardinal “will accompany the members of the association in a review of the charism and a clarification of the ecclesiology that underlies the vocation of the Foyers, along with a consequent reform of the life, the formation and the government of the association at statutory level.”

The Vatican typically appoints pontifical delegates to oversee reforms of Catholic communities on behalf of the pope. For example, Benedict XVI appointed the then Archbishop Velasio De Paolis as the pontifical delegate to the crisis-hit Legionaries of Christ in 2010.

The Foyers de Charité was founded on Feb. 10, 1936, when Marthe Robin met the priest Father Georges Finet at Châteauneuf-de-Galaure in southeastern France.

She asked Finet, a priest of the Archdiocese of Lyon, to establish a “foyer of charity,” where people could attend a week-long silent retreat.

Robin was bedridden from the age of 21 and reputedly lived on nothing but the Eucharist due to digestive problems. She died in 1981 and was declared Venerable by Pope Francis in 2014, a step on the way to beatification in the Catholic Church.

The Vatican recognized the Foyers de Charité as an international private association of the faithful on Nov. 1, 1986. As of 2017, there were 76 foyers in 41 countries on four continents.

In 2020, the group announced that an independent investigation had established that Finet, who died in 1990, committed “seriously deviant acts.”

It said: “The Foyers de Charité unreservedly condemns Father Finet’s actions which are gravely contrary to the law and the respect for persons. These revelations are very painful for those who were victims, for every member of the Foyers de Charité, and for all those who valued Father Finet in his role as founder, preacher, or teacher.”

Father Moïse Ndione, Father Moderator of the Work of the Foyers de Charité, welcomed the Vatican’s decision to appoint a pontifical delegate.

In a Feb. 10 letter to members, he said he did “not doubt that this reinforced accompaniment of the Church will allow us to make our charism radiate by clarifying it with the Church and for the world.”

The nomination of a pontifical delegate to the Foyers de Charité is the latest sign of the Vatican’s concerns about the governance of Catholic organizations worldwide.

The Vatican issued a decree in June 2021 setting limits on the terms of leaders of international associations of the faithful and new communities.

In an introduction to the norms, the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life said that it wanted to define “the criteria for prudently guiding government” in lay ecclesial movements.

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