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Published in The Irish Times Tuesday 25th February, 2014.


On October 30th, 1913, in the French village of Montauban-de- Bretagne, Joseph Lemarchand was born, the only child of a tenant-farming family that was ripped asunder by the death of his father in the Great War. A few decades later, as a writer-priest stationed in the Breton capital, Rennes, Lemarchand took the pseudonym Jean Sulivan, a name inspired by his fascination with the movie Sullivan’s Travels . When reading Pope Francis’ groundbreaking interview last August, I had the uncanny feeling that the new pontiff’s views strongly echo what Sulivan was writing in the 1960s and 1970s. A commitment to the poor and the marginalised; an unwillingness to pass moral judgments; a dislike of legalism and decrees from on high; and a distrust of monolithic institutions form the essence of Sulivan’s writings.