He has already demonstrated undeniable qualities in handling difficult cases. Appointed coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, this Tuesday, November 21, Mgr François Touvet, 58 years old, is responsible for appeasing the faithful and accompanying the bishop in title, Mgr Dominique Rey, who had been the subject , at the request of the Vatican, for an investigation into its governance. After the deep crisis which marked the diocese, it was urgent to restore trust between Rome and the Church of Var.
“I accepted this mission in a spirit of service, I am serene and realistic,” Mgr Touvet told La Croix. Bishop of Châlons (Marne) since 2016, he notably had to manage the dissolution of the Word of Life in June 2023, a new community marked by spiritual abuse and sexual violence.
A man of dialogue, Mgr Touvet showed, on this occasion, firm determination and attention to people, even if the dispersion of members of the community was no less painful for some: “The human dimension was my first concern. Around forty people, men and women, lived in this community and I wanted to devote all the necessary time to listening and supporting them, so that everyone could prepare for the future. »
With the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, in which many new communities have been welcomed for several decades, the coadjutor bishop will have equally delicate situations to sort out. Especially since he is entrusted by the pope with most of the prerogatives of the titular bishop, where a coadjutor normally has the powers of an auxiliary, who acts in the name of the titular bishop.
There, Mgr Touvet will act in his own name. Indeed, Pope Francis attributes to him “the special powers of the diocesan government in the areas of administration, management of the clergy, training of seminarians and priests, support of institutes of consecrated life, societies of apostolic life and associations of the faithful,” specifies the press release from the Church of France announcing his appointment.
What will remain for the titular bishop, still in office, while waiting for him to cede his cathedra to the designated successor? “If the new configuration is truly unprecedented, I have no doubt that, in fraternal friendship and trust, we will both be able to serve the people of God,” Mgr Touvet confides to La Croix. “What matters is not Mgr Rey or Mgr Touvet, it is to preserve the Church of Fréjus-Toulon”, insists the one who wants to “work for the proclamation of the Gospel”.
Born on May 13, 1965, son of a naval officer, François Touvet did his military service as an officer in the marine rifles. An asset to convince in the harbor of Toulon, the first French naval base, even more so when you are the brother-in-law of Army General Pierre de Villiers. Broad-built, the athletic bishop thought very early of becoming a priest. An early vocation reinforced by a commitment as an altar boy and with the Scouts of Europe.
Entering the seminary of Paray-le-Monial at the age of 18, before joining that of Besançon, he was ordained for the diocese of Dijon in 1992. A parish priest for twelve years, he was then vicar general of Mgr Minnerath, before to be “loaned” to the diocese of Langres (Haute-Marne) from 2010 until his appointment as bishop of Châlons in 2016. At 50, he was then one of the youngest bishops in France, faithful to his promise scout: “Since my priestly ordination in 1992, my hand always goes into scout salute when I bless, when I give absolution, when I consecrate the bread and wine”.
With a strong voice and a tall stature, the bishop has the air of a coach, at the risk of tiring out his team, which is led at full speed. It is said, within the episcopate, that he volunteered for this delicate mission in Toulon. This contact man, also president of the Council for Communication of the episcopate, would in any case have been chosen in particular for his qualities as a diplomat and his ability to stand up to a bishop of the stature of Dominique Rey. Its classic positioning will also appease in a diocese where charismatic and traditionalist sensibilities are strongly represented.
Presided over by Cardinal Jean-Marc Aveline and in the presence of Nuncio Mgr Celestino Migliore, Mgr Touvet’s welcoming mass at Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds Cathedral in Toulon will take place on Sunday December 10 at 4 p.m.