Born on October 17 of 1709 in the diocese of Senlis, Jean-Baptiste de Belloy became vicar general of Beauvais in 1737. In 1751, he was named bishop of Glandevès and consecrated in the church of Saint Sulpice in Paris on January 30, 1752. On August 4, 1755, he succeeded to Bishop de Belzunce as bishop of Marseilles. He appointed Charles Auguste André de Mazenod as one of his vicar generals. When the see of Marseilles was suppressed during the Revolution, he was not compelled to swear loyalty to the civil constitution of the clergy. He was allowed to retire quietly to Chambly, Oise, to a family estate. After the signing of the concordat in 1801, as the leading bishop, he hastened to offer his resignation. As a reward, he was appointed archbishop of Paris on April 9, 1802. The 18th of the following April, at Notre-Dame, he presided over the ceremony in which the concordat was solemnly published. With courage, he undertook to re-establish public worship, opened up churches again and worked to bring about reconciliation between the clergy who swore loyalty to the constitution and those who refused to swear. He was created cardinal on January 17, 1803 and received the cardinal’s hat on February 1, 1805. A pious, generous benefactor, an energetic person revered by everyone, Cardinal de Belloy died on June 10, 1808 at 98 years of age.
Relations with Eugene de Mazenod
While Eugene was still in exile, he heard speak of Bishop de Belloy because his great-uncle, Charles Auguste André who died in Venice on November 23, 1795 had been Bishop de Belloy’s grand vicar when he was bishop of Marseilles (1755-1791). In 1805, at the request of his aunt, Mrs. Dedons de Pierrefeu, Eugene accompanied her to Paris. During his stay in Paris, a stay which lasted from June 14 to September 23, he took advantage of the situation to visit the capital city and to look up old acquaintances. While strolling through the Botanical Gardens, he met Bishop de Belloy who was walking in the garden. The bishop greeted him with joy and invited him to have dinner with him every Friday. We can assume the Founder availed himself of this invitation some ten times. Here is what he wrote about these visits in his diary under the date of November 28, 1805: “Among the Capital’s treasures, I must not overlook the Cardinal Archbishop. He is phenomenal. 97 years of age, he is not subject to any kind of infirmity. He zealously fulfills all the functions of his ministry, and would err by excess were he not restrained by his entourage. He is abstemious, drinks only white wine, and never omits to get some exercise, it is good for him. His preference for his walks is the Botanical Gardens of which he does a circuit. That is where I saw him for the first time. Once my name was mentioned, he welcomed me most warmly, introduced me to the people around him as the grand-nephew of his dearest friend and he has never seen me since without speaking of the incomparable man whom we mourn all the more every day. He invited me to dine and I have been there every Friday of my stay in Paris.” (Oblate Writings I, vol. 16, p. 110)
No doubt his conversations with Bishop de Belloy did not always centre exclusively on his uncle, but also on the importance of the concordat for the religious rebirth of France. Did the Cardinal suggest to Eugene that he might follow his great-uncle to embrace the priesthood? We do not know. But the Cardinal’s observations about the concordat so impressed Eugene that he subsequently wrote these words that have become famous: “Who walks not with Peter is on the wrong path!”
Jósef Pielorz, o.m.i.
L’épiscopat français 1802-1805, Paris, Bishop’s palace, 1907.
MAZENOD, Eugene de, Diary of his stay in Paris, Aix, November 28, 1805, (Oblate Writings I, vol. 16, pp. 109-117).