Rev. Jacques Maury, a leading French Protestant who served as president of the Reformed Church of France and then of the Protestant Federation of France, has died at the age of 99.
Protestant Federation of France president Rev. François Clavairoly paid tribute to his predecessor, referring to his commitment to ecumenism and forging links with the member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC), his concern for young people and students, and his support for migrants and foreigners in France.
“As far as ecumenism was concerned, he experienced all the seasons, from the spring that followed Vatican II to the more uncertain later seasons of recent times,” said Clavairoly. “Without doubt, he helped others to understand what patience, perseverance and wisdom means in this context.”
In January, Clavairoly recalled, Maury was seated on the front row of the federation’s New Year meeting with political leaders, “following the current political debates, concerned as ever about the future of democracy, and the faithfulness and vitality of his church.”
Another of Maury’s successors, Rev. Jean Arnold de Clermont, spoke of his “immense recognition for the path that he traced in the history of our Reformed Church, in French Protestantism and far beyond.”
Maury was a member of the WCC Central and Executive Committees, and co-moderator of the Joint Working Group of the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church from 1981 to 1990.
WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca expressed gratitude for Maury’s service in the ecumenical movement.
“He was a stalwart contributor to the ecumenical movement during joyful times and times of great challenge, and taught us all the value of persistence,,” said Sauca. “His Christian response consistently combined wisdom with compassion and a deep sense of caring for us all.”
Dr Dwain Epps, former WCC Commission of the Churches for International Affairs director, wrote: “I will miss his late night phone calls just to check to on the latest news about what was happening these days in the WCC or to get my reading on something he had heard.”
Dr Tarek Mitri, former staff in the area of inter-religious relations, added: “Jacques is unforgettable. He has been a very sensitive presence. I bow down before his memory. Christ is Risen.”
Georges Lemopoulos, former deputy general secretary, said: “I learned a lot from Jacques when I was appointed co-secretary of the JWG. I recall with gratitude his advice, grounded always in his genuine personal ecclesial and ecumenical experience. He visited the council very often and wanted to learn everything both from the old-timers and the newcomers.”
Maury was born on 10 November 1920 in Clamart, near Paris. His father, Pierre Maury, was a pioneer in the post-World War One ecumenical movement in the World Student Christian Federation alongside Willem Visser ’t Hooft, who would later become the WCC’s first general secretary. Jacques Maury’s brother was Philippe Maury, who served as WCC communication director from 1957 to 1967.
He began studies in philosophy before the Second World War before taking up theology at the Protestant faculty in Montpellier in 1940. In 1957 he became general secretary of the French branch of the World Student Christian Federation, a post he held until 1962 when he became pastor in Poitiers.
During this time in his life, Maury also became a symbol of achievement and hope for persons with disabilities after losing his leg from injuries sustained in a train accident.
He will also be remembered with gratitude from all participants in the movement of “Foyers Mixtes” (Mixed Marriages). He was among the founders of the movement, since 1963, and continued accompanying mixed couples with the same passion and enthusiasm for many years.
He was president of the national council of the Reformed Church of France from 1968 to 1977, and then of the Protestant Federation of France from 1977 to 1987. From 1989 to 1995, he was president of the CIMADE, originally a French Protestant agency working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and advocating for their rights.
He was a frequent visitor in his retirement to the WCC offices in Geneva.