The Power of One

This article reprinted in its entirety as received on CompuServe

(Jan. 16) A French bishop who was sacked by the Vatican for his liberal views now has proclaimed himself the first bishop in cyberspace.

Sixty-year-old Jacques Gaillot has begun preaching on the Internet a year after Pope John Paul removed him as bishop of the Normandy town of Evreux.

"Getting on to the Internet is a dream for me," said Gaillot (dubbed by some the "Red Cleric" for his liberal views) in a first electronic pastoral letter, "a dream of a child who walks along the shore of a sandy beach and looks at the ocean.

"He feels alone and weak before the immensity of the ocean," Gaillot wrote. "And suddenly, a desire grows in him to get into contact and to talk with all the people of the earth who live on distant shores."

Reporting from Paris, Alister Doyle of the Reuter News Service says "Partenia" is the name of Gaillot's page on the Internet's World Wide Web, which launched last weekend. (The site is named for the diocese the Pope gave Gaillot in southern Algeria as a punishment. The diocese no longer exists, but instead is an ancient, ruined city covered by the Sahara desert since the Middle Ages.)

Doyle reports that on learning of his exile last year, Gaillot said Partenia seemed "somewhat surrealist." Now, having converted it into a virtual diocese (located at Web address, "he has a potential congregation of tens of millions around the world," the wire service observed.

The Pope ousted Gaillot for such acts as promoting the use of condoms to curb the spread of AIDS, allowing priests to marry and urging greater tolerance of homosexuality. "Gaillot has become a media celebrity," Reuters notes, "for his fight for greater rights for the homeless, the unemployed and those excluded from mainstream society. He says he wants Partenia to be a meeting place for all."

Reuters says the conservative daily Le Figaro has pointed out, "It is a public place reserved for those who have computers, modems and subscriptions to the Internet. Not exactly what one would call social outcasts."

The Partenia Web site provides a history of Gaillot's dismissal, his last sermon at Evreux, a letter Gaillot wrote to the Pope and photographs of the two men at the Vatican last month after a conciliatory meeting.

Reports from Reuter News Service are a regular feature of CompuServe's Executive News Service (GO ENS).

CompuServe members now have access to the Internet's World Wide Web through the NetLauncher software. Enter GO NETLAUNCHER for details.

--Charles Bowen

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