TOULON, France (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has appointed a coadjutor bishop to a diocese in France known for its support of the Traditional Latin Mass and where the Pope abruptly halted ordinations last year in a move that sent shockwaves through the Church.
The Vatican announced on Tuesday that Pope Francis has named Monsignor François Touvet, the bishop of Châlons, as the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, currently led by Bishop Dominique Rey, one of the most orthodox bishops in France.
Touvet, 58, will administer the diocese alongside Rey, 71, and automatically succeed him when he retires upon turning 75.
According to a Tuesday message from the two bishops, Pope Francis has given Touvet control over various aspects of diocesan governance, limiting Rey’s authority. Touvet will now oversee management of clergy in the diocese, training of seminarians and priests, financial administration, and support of religious communities.
“The special powers conferred on me by the Pope will make me work more closely with the priests and deacons, the seminary of Castile, and all the communities, whatever their canonical status,” Touvet said.
Since Rey took the helm in 2000, the Diocese of Toulon-Fréjus has become known for its large number of vocations and welcoming attitude toward both traditional and charismatic communities.
“The seminary of Toulon is one of the establishments of priestly formation where such more traditionally-minded young men in France choose to go when they do not want to join one of the (former) Ecclesia Dei communities which exclusively celebrate according to the Vetus Ordo – making it one of the country’s most frequented seminaries at a time when vocations in diocesan seminaries are on a new downward turn,” LifeSiteNews reported.
Rey has personally ordained diocesan priests and priests of religious communities, including the traditional Institute of the Good Shepherd, using the 1962 Roman Pontifical, according to Catholic News Agency.
But in June 2022, the Vatican informed the bishop to suspend all ordinations, including planned ordinations of four priests and six deacons, without explanation.
In a recent interview with LifeSiteNews’ John-Henry Westen, Rey described the order from Rome as a “very big surprise for us.”
He added that the discernment of so many vocations, including from charismatic and traditional groups, was “a problem” for Vatican authorities.
The bishop stressed, however, that the diocese had the necessary documentation for the men to be presented for ordination.
“I’ve sent many letters, I visited the rector of the seminary, I’ve been in Rome to discuss [the matter],” he recalled.
Prior to the suppression of ordinations, the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon underwent a “fraternal visit” in 2020 conducted by Monsignor Jean-Marc Aveline, the archbishop of Marseille, at the request of the Vatican. The diocese was also subjected to an apostolic visitation led by Archbishop Antoine Hérouard of Dijon earlier this year.
In his message on Tuesday, Rey said, “I thank God for seeing our diocese emerge from the torments we had entered since June 2022.”
“This year and a half of waiting was particularly difficult and painful for all of us priests, religious, faithful and particularly seminarians,” he wrote. “Despite the temptation of anger or incomprehension in the face of this collective sanction, thanks to prayer and by the grace of God, we have not yielded to discouragement.”
Touvet, a former naval officer, was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Châlons by Pope Francis in 2016. He has also been the administrator of the Communauté du Verbe de Vie, a private association of the faithful, since 2022.
A welcoming Mass for the coadjutor bishop will be held at Toulon’s Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds Cathedral on December 10, presided over by Cardinal Aveline.
The appointment of Touvet to the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon comes days after Pope Francis removed Bishop Joseph Strickland, another prominent defender of Catholic Tradition, from the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. Last year, Francis similarly ousted orthodox Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres from the Diocese of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, reportedly due to his support for conscience objections to COVID shot mandates. The Pope has not given a public explanation for the removal of either bishop.
At the same time, Francis has not disciplined numerous bishops who have openly contradicted Catholic doctrine on homosexual activity, gender, same-sex “blessings,” the ordination of women, and the reception of the Eucharist, among other things.
The Pope also regularly promotes dissident, pro-LGBT clerics, like Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, S.J., of Luxembourg, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego, LGBT activist priest Father James Martin, S.J., and Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, the new Vatican doctrine chief, who has signaled openness to homosexual “blessings” and repudiated Catholic teaching against contraception.