Archbishop Laurent Bernard Marie Ulrich, originally ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Dijon, and from 2008 Archbishop of Lille, is named as the new Archbishop of Paris.

By Adelaide Patrignani and Adriana Masotti

Archbishop Laurent Ulrich reacted with surprise upon learning of his appointment to head the Archdiocese of Paris. An experienced churchman who has previously led three other French Dioceses, Archbishop Ulrich will be installed in a ceremony at the Church of Saint-Sulpice in the French capital on Monday, 23 May.

Born on 7 September 1951 in Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, Laurent Ulrich was ordained a priest on 2 December 1979 in the diocese of his birth, after obtaining two master's degrees, one in philosophy and the other in theology, having written on the subject of “the proclamation of the faith in the modern world.”

As soon as he was ordained, he joined the parish priest in a Croix-Rousse parish in Lyon, then returned to the diocese of Dijon, where he carried out various ministries in Beaune, in a parish and in the chaplaincy of colleges and high schools. In 1983 he became diocesan delegate for the permanent diaconate and in 1984 he was appointed vice-dean of Beaune-ville. A year later he was episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese of Dijon, before becoming vicar general, while being delegated to the lay apostolate, from 1990 to 2000.

Episcopal ministries

On 6 June 2000, John Paul II appointed Father Ulrich Archbishop of Chambéry, and Bishop of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne-Tarentaise. His episcopal ordination took place on 10 September 2000. In November 2007 he was elected Vice-President of the French Bishops' Conference (CEC). Previously he was president of the Finance Commission and the Council for Economic, Social and Legal Affairs within the CEC, and a member of the Information and Communication Committee. He also chaired the RCF (Radios Chrétiennes Francophones) Orientation Council between 2004 and 2008.

On 1 February 2008, Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Lille.  Within the archdiocese, he served as President of Catholic Education and Chancellor of the Catholic University of Lille. From 2013 to 2019, Archbishop Ulrich was president of the Studies and Projects Committee of the CEC. In July 2019, he became president of the Council for Catholic Education. On 12 May 2017, he was made a Chevalier (Knight) of the Legion of Honour. His episcopal motto is “The joy of believing” (La joie de croire).

A desire: "to show the friendship of Christ

Speaking in an interview with RCF Hauts-de-France, a Catholic radio station in the north of France, Archbishop Ulrich said he was astonished at the news of Pope Francis’ decision to entrust him with the archdiocese of Paris:

“It was a complete surprise.”

"I immediately expressed to the nuncio a great surprise, an astonishment, almost a way of saying ‘no,' the Archbishop said. "I struggled inwardly spiritually because I told myself that it wasn't for me and that I wasn't the right person for the job. I already have a few years of service, so just imagine, this is the fourth diocese I will serve. It's an exercise."

He said, "My ministry as bishop of Paris will be a ministry that intends to manifest the friendship of Christ. So I don't know if I will be able to demonstrate it with my qualities and my defects. I don't know if I will really be able to show this, but it is my profound desire to consider Parisians as my friends. I have never aimed at a position, I have never had any ambition other than to do what the Church asks of me.”

The Church in Paris: Eighteen centuries of history

Archbishop Ulrich succeeds Archbishop Michel Aupetit, who was appointed Archbishop of Paris in 2017. Archbishop Aupetit submitted his resignation from the pastoral governance of the archdiocese to Pope Francis in a letter on 25 November 2021, which the Pope accepted on 2 December. Since that date, the archdiocese has been administered by Georges Pontier, Archbishop emeritus of Marseille.

The Archbishop of Paris is one of the 23 archbishops of France. According to tradition, the diocese of Paris was created in the 3rd century, around the year 250, by Saint Denis, who, along with Saint Genevieve, became its patron. The diocese of Paris, previously a suffragan of the archbishopric of Sens, was elevated to the rank of archdiocese on 20 October 1622.

The archiepiscopal see was temporarily abolished, from 1793 to 1798, during the French Revolution. The current seat of the archdiocese is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.

In 2019, the Archdiocese of Paris had approximately 100 parishes, 492 incardinated priests, 126 permanent deacons, 67 seminarians in formation, 473 priests who are members of religious institutes, 179 men religious who are not priests, and 1,351 women religious.