Archbishop Michel Aupetit, pictured in 2019. / François-Régis Salefran via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Paris, France, Dec 11, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).
At a farewell Mass in Paris on Friday, Archbishop Michel Aupetit directly addressed media reports claiming that he had “lost himself for love.”
“A journalist wrote ‘the archbishop of Paris lost himself for love,’” he said. “It’s true, it’s true. But she forgot the end of the sentence. The complete sentence is ‘the archbishop of Paris lost himself for love of Christ.’”
Aupetit’s words were applauded by the congregation of around 2,000 people gathered in the city’s second-largest church after Notre-Dame Cathedral.
The 70-year-old archbishop, who had a late vocation to the priesthood after working as a doctor, said: “Yesterday, I lost my life for the love of Christ when I entered the seminary. Today, I lost my life for the love of Christ. Tomorrow, I will again lose my life for the love of Christ. For I remember those words of the Lord, ‘whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
Aupetit served as archbishop of Paris from his installation on Jan. 6, 2018, to Dec. 2, when Pope Francis accepted his resignation.
The report raised concerns about Aupetit’s contacts with a woman dating back to 2012, when he was vicar general of the Archdiocese of Paris.
Aupetit told Le Point that he was not in a relationship with the woman.
He said: “My behavior towards her may have been ambiguous, thus suggesting the existence between us of an intimate relationship and sexual relations, which I strongly refute … I decided not to see her again and I informed her.”
Pope Francis indicated to journalists during an in-flight press conference on Dec. 6 that he had accepted Aupetit’s resignation because the archbishop had “lost his reputation so publicly.”
The pope said that the allegations against Aupetit concerned “small caresses and massages that he gave to the secretary.”
But the Vatican’s official Italian transcript of the press conference omitted the word “secretary,” referring simply to “small caresses and massages that he did.”
The website Aleteia said that the change reflected the Vatican’s recognition that the woman involved in the “ambiguous” relationship was not the archbishop’s secretary.
Aupetit is considering taking legal action over the Paris Match article, which suggested that he was in a close relationship with a second woman. The article was illustrated with images of the archbishop on a walk taken with a telephoto lens.
A statement issued by his lawyer on Dec. 8 said: “Archbishop Aupetit strongly denies these false allegations and vigorously deplores the malicious insinuations contained in this publication.”
Concluding his homily at the live-streamed Mass at Saint-Sulpice, Aupetit said: “Yes, I believe that it is in the secret of all hearts that God comes into the world and it is there that I discovered him. In the hearts of the weakest, the vulnerable, the poor, I have recognized the presence of the Lord.”
“I recognize it in each of you who open your hearts to the presence of God, here and now. May we truly live it and help each other to live it together.”