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Bishop François TouvetVideo screenshot

TOULON, France (LifeSiteNews) — The newly installed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon announced that a Vatican ban on ordinations in the diocese was to be lifted immediately after his installation, further confirming reports that he is taking control of the diocese.

On December 10, Bishop François Touvet was installed as the coadjutor bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, with the right of succession once incumbent Bishop Dominique Rey retires upon reaching age 75. 

Making the revelation at the end of his installation Mass on December 10 and accompanied by a press release online, Touvet announced that “on the part of Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung Sik, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy, that the [Vatican] decree of April 28, 2022 postponing ordinations is now revoked.”

Repeating that “this is good news,” Touvet stated the first ordinations would take place on January 21, 2024.

Despite his flourishing seminary and diocese – which has become home to a number of fledgling communities devoted to the Church’s traditional use of liturgy and sacraments – Rey was banned from performing ordinations in a decree issued by the Vatican in June 2022. The ban came less than a month before Rey was due to ordain four new priests and six deacons.

READ: Vatican tells traditional French bishop to suspend ordinations of priests, deacons

The 71-year-old Rey is widely known for his promotion and defense of the ancient rites of the Church’s traditional liturgy, especially given that he used the 1962 form of the Pontificale Romanum for ordinations he performed.  

It was this fact that many posited as being the real reason behind the ordination ban, with the rapidly growing numbers of young seminarians flocking to his diocese possibly becoming a cause for concern for certain members of the Roman Curia in the Vatican. 

Rey complied with the order, and some months later announced that he would not be accepting any new religious communities into the diocese. This came about after what he described as a “frank” meeting with his diocesan clergy along with commitments by Rey to implement more of the restrictions on the ancient form of the Mass as required by Traditionis Custodes.

As LifeSiteNews correspondent Jeanne Smits reported, Rey’s diocese had around 50 different religious communities at the time, many of whom had been unable to find a home in other dioceses around the country due to their traditional views. 

Before the suppression of ordinations, the diocese had undergone a “fraternal visit” in 2020 conducted by now-Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline, the archbishop of Marseille, at the order of the Vatican and the Dicastery for Bishops. The diocese was also subjected to an apostolic visitation led by Archbishop Antoine Hérouard of Dijon earlier this year.

After the diocese had been left in a certain state of limbo since the 2022 ordination ban, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Touvet to be the coadjutor with right of succession and made the news public on November 21, 2023.

READ: Pope Francis limits powers of orthodox French bishop known for supporting Latin Mass

Issuing a joint statement, Touvet and Rey outlined that the incoming 58-year-old prelate would assume a large portion of the duties and power in the diocese. Touvet was placed in charge of managing 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. 

Speaking to LifeSiteNews’ John-Henry Westen in early November, Rey described the ordination ban from Rome as a “very big surprise for us.” “It was a difficulty also for us,” he added, “because in a context where the dialogue is very important in the Church, synodality, etc., we have no response to how Christians have sent many letters without any answer. And so the silence is very difficult to live. But [we] advance in the faith, and we advance in the hope, and we pray for the Church.”

With the ban on ordinations now lifted with the official beginning of Bishop Touvet’s role in the diocese, it seems increasingly evident that Bishop Rey will remain as the local ordinary in name only.