Pope Francis orders canonical process against Fr. Rupnik

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Pope Francis has lifted the statue of limitations to allow a canonical trial for Fr. Marko Rupnik, a famous artist expelled from the Jesuits earlier this year.

Pope Francis “has asked the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to examine” the case of Fr. Marko Rupnik, a famous mosaicist accused of serious abuse, the Holy See Press Office announced on October 27, 2023. The Pontiff made his decision after the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors reported to him “serious problems in the handling of Fr. Rupnik’s case and a lack of closeness to the victims.”

Statue of limitations lifted

To enable the Vatican justice system to re-examine the case of the former member of the Society of Jesus, the Pope decided to “waive the statute of limitations” on the facts to allow the trial to take place. The Slovenian priest is at the heart of a major scandal revealed in November 2022. He is accused of having spiritually and sexually abused 20 women in the years 1980-2000.

The announcement of a trial comes a day after Fr. Rupnik’s incardination in the Slovenian Diocese of Koper at the end of August 2023 was made public. (Incardination refers to the process by which a priest becomes a member of a diocese, either from a religious order or from another diocese).

Most of the abuses of which Runik is accused were allegedly committed in Slovenia, his homeland.

The Society of Jesus, judging that there was a “very high probability” that these facts would be confirmed, expelled the priest last June.

Because of the statute of limitations, Fr. Rupnik has never been brought before the civil courts. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the other hand, already examined Marko Rupnik’s case in 2020. At that time, he was excommunicated for a serious violation of canon law — the absolution of an “accomplice,” in this case a woman with whom he had had a sexual relationship. However, the excommunication was lifted after the accused repented; repentance is the hoped-for result of an excommunication.

Victims call for justice

A diocesan canonical visit to the Aletti Center, Father Rupnik’s mosaic workshop in Rome, whose conclusions were presented in September 2023, denounced “seriously abnormal procedures.” Nonetheless, it seemed to come to the priest’s defense by criticizing the media treatment of the case.

Several victims strongly criticized the report on the visit, signed by Cardinal Vicar Angelo De Donatis, claiming not to have been contacted by the investigators. They also protested against the Pope’s choice to meet the director of the Aletti Center, Maria Campatelli, on September 15. Campatelli publicly supports Fr. Rupnik, while the Pope has not responded to their request for an audience.

In the statement released by the Holy See, Pope Francis, who is currently taking part in the Synod on the Future of the Church, says he believes “firmly that if there is one thing the Church must learn from the Synod, it is to listen with attention and compassion to those who suffer, especially those who feel marginalized by the Church.”

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