From La Croix (subscription required):
François Debelle sits behind his desk with outstretched hands, palms face-up. “Christianity does not solve evil, but it shows us the two hands we have at the end of our arms!” he exclaims.
The 58-year-old engineer and native of the Champagne region in northeast France describes himself as a “doer”.He says it’s something he learned as a child, growing up in a family where Catholicism was “not moralistic, but committed and generous”.His mother, a teacher by training, was his hometown’s deputy mayor in charge of social action. And his father, the director of an agricultural cooperative, was always ready to help.”People used to come to the house and it was natural.
The feeling was that if there were things to do, then we might as well do them!” he says.
Debelle, who now lives in the south of France, put the two concepts to use in 2018 when he and some associates founded “Jonas”, a network and resource center designed to help fight the sex abuse of minors, what the French very pointedly call “pedocriminality”.
Why did a married man with five “magnificent” children, with a successive career as a regional director of a major social housing firm, choose to tackle this “repulsive” issue?
Debelle says immediately that it has nothing to do with anything that happened in his personal life.
Rather, it’s connected to his vocation as a permanent deacon.
Having been ordained to the diaconate in 2008 for the Archdiocese of Marseilles, he says this ministry has been “a great joy” for him that he shares with those he accompanies in baptism or marriage.
A few years before his ordination, Debelle moved from his job as a private business consultant to his current post in the public housing sector.
He says child protection felt like an obvious choice for him.”
We deal with all the issues of life here. We often come across damaged children, sometimes victims of rape or sexual assault, for whom it is our responsibility to provide support,” he explains.
Then in 2016 one for France’s most notorious cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors made the headlines.