He was one of the martyrs killed during the Paris Commune of 1871.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP) and the Religious of St. Vincent de Paul (RSV), as well as the entire Vincentian Family and the Holy Church, celebrate with joy the beatification of Father Henri Planchat, who was a fellow member of a Vincentian Conference in Paris in the early years of our Society.
Mathieu-Henri Planchat (1823-1871) was born in La Roche-sur-Yon, France. He came from a wealthy and very pious family whose father was a magistrate. At his father’s request, Planchat graduated in law at the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne, but soon after he entered the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice to study Theology.
Partner and priest
During his Theology studies, he participated in the St. Lambert Conference between 1843 and 1850. During this period, he met brother Jean-Léon Le Prevost, who was president of the Saint Sulpice Conference. In 1845, Le Prevost had just founded with two other friends (Clément Myionnet and Maurice Maignen), the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul (RSV).
With them, the young Henri dedicated himself to the service of the poor and the youth of the Parisian suburbs. According to his bishop, three days after his ordination on December 21, 1850, Henri Planchat went to Le Prevost to be received as the first priest of the new Congregation, which until then had only brothers.
Henri Planchat’s religious activity was quite remarkable. He abandoned his comfortable life to serve the poor, acting as chaplain in various works of the SSVP and of the Congregation itself. He visited the poor and the sick, directed a social work for street children and adolescent apprentices, with a strong predilection for the Christian formation of children and young people. In 1862, at the request of the SSVP Conferences of Paris, he was appointed chaplain of the Patronage St. Anne, which helped hundreds of children and young people. He was known as “the apostle of the suburbs” for his work close to the people.
When the Franco-Prussian War broke out (1870), he joined the patriotic movement in favor of the wounded evacuated to the capital and the soldiers in charge of its defense. At the request of brother Paul Decaux, Vice-president of the Paris Particular Council (SSVP), he created an ambulance service to care for the wounded.
After the war of 1870, the “Paris Commune” broke out, a communist-inspired movement that lasted 72 days, with numerous bloody battles throughout the city. Henri Planchat was never involved in political struggles. His concern was for the wounded of the wars and the safety of children and young people.
On the very day of the beginning of the “Paris Commune” on March 18, 1871, a band of insurrectionists assaulted the Patronage St. Anne under the pretext of seizing weapons, but none were found. Days later, the Patronage was assaulted again. Planchat was interrogated, humiliated, beaten and imprisoned for two months, along with other religious and civilians.
On May 26, 1871, in an anarchist ambush, Planchat and other companions were violently shot, during the terrible “Haxo Street Massacre”. He was 47 years old. After his death, Father Planchat’s fame as a martyr spread rapidly. In 1897, the diocesan phase of the beatification process was opened in Paris. After being introduced in Rome in 1964, this cause finally received the unanimous vote of the consultors in October 2020 and of the theologians of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints in May 2021.
It is important to note that the “Paris Commune”, apart from socio-political interests, was deeply averse to religion. The “Commune” considered religion as “an obstacle that had to be eliminated”. The hatred of faith was evident in the innumerable destructions of churches and looting that took place in places of worship.
Following the favorable ruling, on November 25, 2021, Pope Francis recognized the “martyrdom for the faith” of Father Planchat and four other Catholic leaders killed during the Paris Commune, called the “Haxo Street Martyrs” (Ladislas Radigue, Polycarpe Tuffier, Frézal Tardieu and Marcellin Rouchouze). He signed the decree of their beatification and the ceremony will take place on April 22, 2023, 4 PM, in the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris.
The remains of Henri Planchat rest in the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette, in Paris, in the 15th District. In July 2021, the 16th President General of the SSVP, brother Renato Lima de Oliveira, visited the Shrine and prayed at the grave of Henri Planchat. In the 20th District, where the building of the Patronage of St. Anne was located, the Paris City Hall has paid tribute to him by naming a street after him, which has been renamed “Planchat Street”.
The Council General International will be represented at the beatification ceremony by the Secretary General, sister Marie-Françoise Salesiani-Payet, the Secretary General Deputy, brother Jean-Marc Ossogo, and the International Spiritual Advisor, Father Andres Motto (CM). We ask that, during the week of April 22, in all the SSVP Conferences of the world, an “Our Father” be prayed for the soul of our dear brother (and later priest) Henri Panchat.
Click here to read a little more about the history of the Religious of Saint Vincent de Paul through the book “Maurice Maignen: apôtre du monde ouvrier”, written by Richard Corbon.