Born on 11 September 1935 in St Dizier (Haute-Marne), he died of cancer in Paris on 12 April 2023. Mgr Jacques Gaillot is well-known for his actions in support of undocumented people, homeless people, migrants and marginals, and for the very liberal positions he took within the Catholic Church, for example on the marriage of priests and “marriage for all”, contraception and abortion. He is less well-known for his opposition to both civil and military nuclear technologies.
Marked by the Algerian War, when he did his military service from 1957 to 1959, he became committed to nuclear disarmament. In 1995 he took part in the Rainbow Warrior II expedition, opposing the resumption of nuclear tests at Moruroa. He regularly signed the public calls made by ACDN, notably the 2003 Global call to rid the planet of weapons of mass destruction – which is still topical twenty years later.
On 24 September 2005, in his native region of the Marne, he participated in the great demonstration at Bar-Le-Duc against the burying of nuclear wastes at Bure.
In May-June 2012, along with two other French bishops (Christophe Dufour, archbishop of Aix-en-Provence & Arles, and Emmanuel Lafont, bishop of Cayenne) and many international personalities including Noam Chomsky, he gave his support to the 42-day hunger-strike made by ACDN’s president to obtain a referendum on France’s participation in the abolition of nuclear weapons.
In 2013 he co-signed an open letter to President François Hollande and joined a small group of activists who carried it to the Elysee Palace with a petition of several thousand signatories seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons.
In January 2019, he attended a press conference at the National Assembly which presented the Referendum Bill on this subject.
In March 2019, he made an exception to his withdrawal from all public events to come to Saintes and give a speech entitled “Peace is our business too!”. In it one of his humorous stories was an account of his interview in 2015 with Pope Francis.
Jacques Gaillot had a constant concern to act for a “more human world of greater solidarity and greater justice.” This deep humanity led him to commit some errors and certainly to take many risks – which he accepted and which we thank him for, in the name of the unshakeable friendship he had for us and we for him.
His death is a loss of the anti-nuclear and abolitionist movement – as have been those of Claude Piéplu, Graeme Allwright, Stéphane Hessel or Albert Jacquard.
Requiescat in pace !
Jacques Gaillot and Jean-Marie Matagne
after a Press release
at the National Assembly
on 23 January 2019
World Appeal, 2003
Conference on 1st March 2021 in Saintes