In Memoriam: Émile Letertre
The founder of the European Forum, Émile Letertre, passed away in peace on July 5th, 2015. He was 91 years old. Émile Letertre was a Catholic priest from the French group David & Jonathan who invited groups from all over Europe to the first gathering of LGBT Christians that took place in Paris 1982. He realized how important it was that we get to know each other and support one another. The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups grew out of this initiative.
Memories to Emile
The little mustard seed has grown into a very tall tree.
That’s how (quoting Matthew, 13) Émile LETERTRE used to describe the European Forum and its extraordinary vitality. Ηe was so pleased to see that what he had sown some 33 years ago (in Paris, 1982) had come to such fruition.
After a very active life both as parish priest in Nantes (western France) and gay activist in the French Christian lgbt movement David & Jonathan, Émile had wisely chosen to retire in an old priests’ home. This is where I regularly visited him. And each time he wanted to know about the European Forum, remembering his old friends, keeping track of the new groups and asking questions about the personalities of Board members.
I first met him as the vicar of my church in the mid 1970’s, at a time when I hadn’t come out as gay yet and had no idea of the particular role he was going to play in my life. At the time I was mesmerized by his sermons and the way he related Jesus’ message to modern life issues.
When I finally came out in 1980, it was normal to turn to him for advice. That’s when I discovered he was involved in a gay Christian group, that he was gay himself. At the time he was still very active in the life of the local group in Nantes and soon I started helping him edit the local bulletin, learning, in the process, how to reconcile my life and my faith with my new identity. Ten years later he had turned me into a full-blown gay activist.
Something I learned from my “mentor” was that whatever the fight, whatever the criticism I was going to voice (at either friends or foes to our cause), always start with the positive points, be calm and respectful. And never forget to smile.
The most interesting aspect of his rich personality was his large range of interests. From how to use modern technology to how to develop good ecumenical practices in his parish. From Polynesian culture to religious tourism. From local history to Nazi deportation. His own father had died in a deportation camp and he wanted to keep alive the memory of all the gays deported by the Nazi. He regularly sent articles to newspapers about all sorts of subjects and didn’t hesitate to write about homosexuality, cautiously signing “a priest in Brittany”.
Related to his interest in history was his obsession with archives. A few years ago he sent a whole box of miscellaneous notes and booklets to David & Jonathan, convinced as he was that they would one day prove extremely valuable to historians.
Émile, you’ve done a great deal to “the cause”, you’ve been instrumental to the creation of so many groups (not only gay groups), you’ve helped get so many people back on their own two feet. Émile, we’ll miss you!
Yves QUENTIN (Nantes, 17/07/2015)
The board and the members of the European Forum are grateful for Émile’s courage and his crucial role in the founding of the European Forum. With faith and hope we continue to work together for victory of love and equality with the same spirit Émile had for LGBT Christians. We pray for Father Émile and we give thanks for his life and work. May Émile rest in peace.
To see the video of his interview in May 2015 go to Émile Letertre about the founding of the European Forum.