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Bordeaux Mayor hands church over to Lefebvrists

Church leaders in the French city of Bordeaux have sued to regain one of the southern city's oldest Catholic churches after the mayor handed it to followers of the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppe (pictured), a former French prime minister, awarded the 12th-century St Elois Church to the traditionalist Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.

France's Liberation daily said lawsuits had been filed by the archdiocese and socialist city council members after the first Tridentine Mass was celebrated in the church last month.

Archbishop Lefebvre, who rejected the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and advocated retaining the Latin Mass, was excommunicated in 1988 after ordaining four bishops, including French Bishop Bernard Fellay, the movement's current leader. Archbishop Lefebvre died in 1991.

Catholic churches predating a 1905 separation law are state-owned in France, although government officials are required to consult Catholic bishops over their use.

Explaining the court action, which coincides with French celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, a Socialist politician, Gilles Savary, accused Juppe of "trying to give a political signal to the extreme right" through the church's handover.

"He claims he's trying to avoid the church's threatened occupation and that the Lefebvrites have the means to renovate it. But this effectively means rewarding illegal activity," Savary said.

Fr Michel Jarceau, spokesman for the Bordeaux Archdiocese, said the archdiocese would wait for a final court ruling on the property, due at the end of this year.

The Universe

Archdiocese of Bordeaux (
Society of St Pius X

25 Oct 2002