• France's news in English

Inter-faith advocate to lead French Catholics

Dan MacGuill · 17 Apr 2013, 14:03

Published: 17 Apr 2013 14:03 GMT+02:00

Pontier, 69, has been Archbishop of Marseille since 2006, and will replace outgoing president André Vingt-Trois, the Archbishop of Paris who has been an outspoken critic of plans to legalise gay-marriage.

Pontier awas elected for a three-year term on Wednesday, as part of this week’s plenary assembly of the Bishops’ Conference in the French capital. He will commence his duties on July 1st, according to French Catholic newspaper La Croix.

A private yet “affable and accessible” man, according to La Croix, Pontier has also made a point of “walking the streets” of Marseille’s notoriously crime and poverty-stricken northern districts in recent years, meeting and talking with local shopkeepers and community leaders.

SEE ALSO: ‘The Catholic Church is too powerful in France.’

“He carries out his life of faith in a disconcertingly simple and easy way,” Remi Caucanas, from the Catholic Institute for the Mediterranean, told La Croix.

Pontier has a reputation for inter-faith dialogue, particularly with France’s Muslim community – to the extent that he was attacked in 2010 by a far-right politician for his willingness to share dialogue with France's Muslim leaders.

The Archbishop of Marseille was the unanimous choice for the position on Wednesday, according to TF1 television.

Born in Lavaur, southern France in 1943, Pontier was ordained a Catholic priest in 1966, and in 1988 became Bishop of the diocese of Digne, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department of south-eastern France.

Story continues below…

Though France does not permit official statistics on religious affiliation, it is estimated that Catholics form 64 percent of the population, or 41.5 million, according to AFP, making theirs the largest religious group in the country.

Nearly two out of three of the French people around 41 million describe themselves as Catholic but less than five percent, around 1.9 million regularly attend church.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
View from the rue
What do Parisians think of France's burqini bans?
Photo: AFP

With 64 percent of the French against burqinis at the beach, what do the Parisians think?

Almost half of France now on heatwave alert
Children cool off in Nice's fountains. Photo: AFP

Orange alerts - the second highest level - were issued to 43 départements as France's heatwave shows no signs of stopping.

France's top ten beaches to survive the heatwave
Photo: Gomezdegomera/Flickr

Temperatures are soaring... why not head to the beach?

Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
People taking part in activities in the Bassin de la Villette. Photo: AFP

If you fancy a rare chance to swim along the Paris canal system, here comes your chance.

French wine output drops 10 percent after stormy weather
A vineyard in Valfaunes partially destroyed after a violent hailstorm near the southern city of Montpellier. Photo: AFP

Bad weather has pushed wine production in France down ten percent this year.

Migrants armed with sticks hold up truck driver in Calais
Migrants standing near the Calais motorway. File photo: AFP

The driver involved says he deals with similar incidents "every night".

Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
The burqini ban in 30 French towns has provoked debate worldwide. Photo: AFP

Almost two thirds of French people said they're against the controversial swimwear.

Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Photo: Thomas Heylen/Flickr

A few things you need to know about interning in France.

Police arrest Lyon man who 'talked of attack plans'
French soldiers patrolling the Part-Dieu train station last year. Photo: AFP

The man had talked about plans to attack a busy district in central Lyon.

France's burqini ban goes before country's top court
A woman models the burqini swimsuit. Photo: AFP

France's highest administrative court will on Thursday examine a request to scrap a ban on the Islamic burqini swimsuit.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
'To boycott France is to surrender to terrorists'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
21 photos to make you want to come to France right now
This is how much the French are obsessed with cheese
French MP's call for Facebook ID cards blasted 'as idiotic'
Summer checklist: Fourteen great travel ideas for France
Here's why France is still world's top tourist destination
'Wealthy American tourists' snub France over terror fears
Where to go swimming in France (and where to avoid)
jobs available