Born on 25 September 1944 in Marseilles, France. He obtained a BA before entering seminary in Marseilles and Paris. He was ordained to the priesthood on 5 October 1968 in Marseilles.
He was engaged in pastoral work in Marseille and various administrative positions in the archdiocese, including eventually becoming vicar-general of the archdiocese.
He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Grenoble on 17 April 1993 by Pope John Paul II, and consecrated on 6 June 1993 in the Cathedral of St Mary Major in Marseilles by Robert Cardinal Coffy. He was made Coadjutor Bishop of Montpellier on 4 July 1996 and succeed to full governance of the diocese on 6 September that same year.
He was elected vice-president of the Conférence des Évêques de France in 1999 and then its president in 2001. Pope John Paul II promoted him to be Archbishop of Bordeaux on 21 December 2001. Pope Benedict XVI created him Cardinal in the consistory of 24 March 2006.