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Fr. Victor Robert: 100 years old
27/02/2012 France

Last February 17, the very day of the 186th anniversary of the approval of the Congregation by the Church, Fr. Victor ROBERT, of the St. Francis of Assisi community in Lyon, celebrated his 100th birthday. Still very lucid, he presided at the Eucharist and agreed to be interviewed by Fr. Jean-Pierre BONNAFOUX.

Over a hundred years, there have been many experiences and events. Would you tell us about something that stands out for you?

Yes, about Europe, the Church and the Oblates.

So let’s begin with Europe…

We are at peace! Europe lives in peace! I have lived 25 years of war. I was six years old at the end of the war of 1914-18, when there was nothing to eat! Then, during the war of 1939-45, after the armistice, Alsace-Loraine had been annexed by Germany. I was a prisoner; I was released from the army and I went back to Augny and continued the missions. Then I was sent to Corsica, to Vico, and there, in February 1944, I left for the army in North Africa, landing on the Island of Elba. One can say therefore that I was on two of Napoleon’s islands. I was released in November, 1945, and I received the commemorative medal of the 1939-45 war with the bars of France and Liberation. You may not realize what Europe at peace means! That just seems normal to you today.

And the Church…

I want to clarify one point: they blamed Pope Pius XII for remaining silent, but it was he who morally supported the Bishops of Germany and Italy. Today, there is freedom to come and to go, to go or not go to Church. At the time of Hitler, one had to hide in order to go to Mass. Christian associations were forbidden. There was only one party. One should not forget that one of the fathers of Europe, Robert Schuman, found asylum in monasteries that hid him.

And the Oblates?

I entered the Oblates because of a juniorate student who did not stay with the Oblates. After the novitiate, I made my scholasticate at Burthécourt. Fr. RESLEY was the superior.

I preached many missions in Alsace-Loraine because I spoke fluent French and German. My community was in Metz with Fr. HAUBERT. I liked him a lot, even though he took jokes too seriously! I have good memories of Fathers DELORS and ROHR: they’ve been dead a long time.

Today, we have only one province in France. I knew the Eastern Province which was only Alsace-Loraine. Evidently, it was very small, but just the same, it was a family.