Father Bertrand Lorentz, "standard-bearer of peace"

Believe. On the occasion of the celebrations of the centenary of the armistice signed on November 11, 1918, we meet one of those chaplains who accompany the French army.

Difficult to find a moment available with Bertrand Lorentz. the "Father", as they call the "paras", does not count much free time before his departure in external operations. " In opex », in military jargon. The destination is kept secret. It can only specify the continent, in particular Africa. A test battery awaits the military chaplain of 3is Naval Infantry Paratroopers Regiment of Carcassonne (Aude). " Everything rushes ", Acknowledges, at a meeting finally held in extremis in a café Labastide-Saint-Georges (Tarn), about fifty kilometers northeast of Toulouse.The priest continues with the baptism and the first communion of two children whose father he is a soldier, then he finds his family a last time before this four-month mission from the other side of the Mediterranean.

At first glance, only the Roman collar recalls the original vocation of Father Bertrand. With the truss backpack, its sporty appearance and military cut, the man should have no trouble combining with the furniture. " A vocation, in the vocation Explain soberly. Ordained priest at the age of 28, Father Bertrand – now military chaplain under contract with the army – loves adventure. " My backpack is always ready to go "This priest says that he began his first years of priesthood in the diocese of Toulon, a priest for ten years, before carrying out various missions in China.

On his return, and for his greatest happiness, he joined a regiment of paratroopers in Reunion. " Very few military chaplains have a parachute diplomaHe explains. The tests are difficult and must be renewed every year. "This task triggers a strong emotion in his father, himself a paratrooper during the war in Algeria, before becoming a doctor in France, then in Tunisia.

Lorentz, 52, is far from being a "blue" in the regiment. This high-level cyclist, who even competed with Jeannie Longo, has already traveled around the world: Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Chad, Ivory Coast … In a conflict zone, the priest does not hesitate to taking certain risks being closer to the soldiers. Promptly exchange the red cap with a military helmet and a bulletproof vest.

As a Catholic chaplain of Operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic, the "Father" remembers being subjected to a heavy fire during a patrol of several armored vehicles. " Some people lost their lives during the attack He says. " My presence next to the soldiers allows me to be credible. I share their daily life. During the dropping operations, it is the same cable that connects us when we jump from the plane. In some soldiers, the priest is considered a " presence of God a little more materialized "TO" additional armor "For his part, Father Bertrand listens win the war of hearts In countries where the French army is not necessarily well received by the population.

To justify his presence in a war zone, Father Bertrand believes he has two essential missions: to be a guardian and to wake up. " The mission of a military chaplain begins on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament to bring to prayer all the men entrusted to him "Explain at first." This prayer can awaken in them a hope. I believe that in every man faced with the dangers, there is a greater spiritual availability. Fundamental questions arise, questions about its existence, in relation to God. The military chaplain has the opportunity, in his eyes, to be a moral and spiritual support for men. " A listening, an advice, a strength to be able to live well his mission ", he quotes, quoting the very strong words of Pope Francis when he met the military chaplains: " We are here to heal our wounds soldiers who are sent to the front. These men are not unharmed by what they can live on the ground. "

The presence of a religious is also observed with "benevolence" from the hierarchy. " The military chaplain is seen by the officers as a helper of command, the man to whom the army can say. It is said that the chaplain has taken the rank of the one to whom he addresses himself. My only visible rank on the uniform is the sign of the cross. I am the chaplain of all, not only the one who gives the sacraments. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for soldiers, even non-believers, to come and speak after the death of a brother in arms. " The enthusiasm of youth leads to a sense of infallibility, Father Bertrand comments. A veil is torn during our funeral vigil on the field. The death of a soldier reminds them of a form of vulnerability. But we are all the same before the eternal. "

In addition to the traditional international military pilgrimage (PMI) to Lourdes, the place par excellence for catechumens baptisms, Father Bertrand takes a dozen paratroopers to Rome every year. They have the opportunity to meet the pope during an audition. The exchanges are also organized with the cardinals to explain the Church's vision of the "just war".

According to this former scout of Europe, there is " no incompatibility Being both a Christian and a soldier: " When we go to the theaters of operations, it is always in a context of self-defense, at the service of peace. As part of the centenary of the First World War, Father Bertrand was naturally present in Paris on November 8, for a tribute ceremony in front of the Arc de Triomphe. During the Great War, 2,949 diocesan priests, 1,571 religious and 1,300 seminarians fell on the field of honor and 375 nuns died in the service of soldiers. " Since then, the war has changed typologyhe says the army. The threat is both outside and inside. Father Bertrand knows what he is talking about. His regiment in Carcassonne was initially targeted during the Aude terrorist attacks.

Hugues-Olivier Dumez

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