A Lyon priest admired by parishioners for modernising his church has been sacked after he admitted falling in love with a woman, saying he believed God wanted him to live with her.
In an open letter, David Gréa, 46, said he had “discovered an unsuspected joy that seems to
me to be a continuation of what I have lived so far in giving myself body and soul in your service.”
He added: “I wanted to be in truth with the Church by stating my joy in being a priest and my wish to get married.” In his letter, he said he had spoken to Pope Francis and told him that he had “started to built a relationship with a woman with whom I believe God is calling on me to live.” Father Gréa, now Mr Gréa, served as a parish priest in central Lyon for six years and increased church attendance by giving mass “a new look”, bringing in a Catholic pop group, Glorious to accompany services.
But when he said he had begun a relationship with a woman, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, decided he would have to relinquish his pastoral duties.
Some members of the congregation burst into tears when the decision was announced and Mr Gréa’s letter was read out by the vicar general, Patrick Rollin, in church on Sunday morning. However, Mr Gréa's legacy lives on as mass was accompanied as usual by Glorious.
Father Rollin said: “This is a difficult time for our church. But let us keep in our hearts our Lord’s appeal for us to overcome our bitterness, our resentment and our fears.”
A male parishioner, who declined to be named, said: “This is an earthquake because Cardinal Barbarin relied a lot on David to revitalise the Church, which he did with great success.”
A female member of the congregation, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said: “I’m not worried because David is an exceptional person who gave everyone confidence. Each of us had a role in the parish. It’s solid, and it will continue.”
By choosing to marry, Mr Gréa has cast doubt on the rule of celibacy, local newspapers commented. In an interview with the Catholic newspaper La Croix last year, he said: “For a long time, renouncing sexuality has made me scared.”