The influential mosaic artist Fr. Marko Rupnik has been incardinated into a diocese in his native Slovenia.
Msgr. Slavko Rebec, vicar general of the Diocese of Koper, said in an Oct. 25 statement to The Pillar: “In response to the question whether the priest Marko Ivan Rupnik has been received (incardinated) into the Diocese of Koper, we answer that the said priest was received into the Diocese of Koper at the end of August 2023.”
“The Bishop of Koper admitted him on the basis of the decree of Rupnik’s dismissal from the Jesuit order and on the basis of Rupnik’s request for admission to the Diocese of Koper, and on the basis of the fact that Rupnik had not been sentenced to any judicial sentence: ‘Everyone who is accused of a criminal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until he is found guilty according to law, in a public proceeding in which he is given every opportunity necessary for his defense’ (Declaration on Human Rights, Article 11.)”
“Until such time as the above sentence is pronounced on Rupnik, he enjoys all the rights and duties of diocesan priests.”
Rupnik has been at the center of a scandal that has shaken the Catholic world since November 2022, when Italian blogs reported that the 68-year-old artist had been accused of spiritually and sexually abusing women religious in the 1990s.
One alleged victim, whose name was withheld to protect her privacy, said that she experienced sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse, which she described as a “descent into Hell.”
The Italian Catholic website Silere non possum presented a detailed account Wednesday of what it said were the steps to incardinate Rupnik in the Slovenian diocese.
It said that Rupnik wrote a June 13 letter to Koper’s Bishop Jurij Bizjak, asking to be admitted to the diocese “ad experimentum,” or on an experimental basis.
According to the Slovenian Catholic website Blagovest, Rupnik is from the parish of Črni vrh nad Idrijo, located in the Koper diocese.
Silere non possum said that Bizjak discussed the request with Archbishop Jean-Marie Speich, the apostolic nuncio to Slovenia, who allegedly approved the move.
Bizjak reportedly also discussed the Rome-based priest’s request with Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the Vicar General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome, and the canon lawyer Giacomo Incitti, who gave the Aletti Center, Rupnik’s former artistic community, a clean bill of health in September following an investigation.
A Sept. 18 statement from the Vicariate of Rome also suggested there were “well-founded doubts” surrounding Rupnik’s excommunication for the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment, which was lifted soon after it was imposed.
Silere non possum said that Bizjak accepted Rupnik’s request for incardination on an experimental basis June 20, suggesting that this meant the priest “can now freely exercise his ministry.”
The Jesuit order said in a June 15 statement that it had expelled Rupnik due to “his stubborn refusal to observe the vow of obedience.”
The order said that in February it had received a dossier containing “numerous complaints of all kinds” against Rupnik, relating to alleged incidents of abuse over more than 30 years.
Rupnik’s superiors determined “the degree of credibility of what was reported or testified to be very high.”
“Thus, we forced Fr. Marko Rupnik to change communities and accept a new mission in which we offered him one last chance as a Jesuit to come to terms with his past and to give a clear signal to the many injured people who were testifying against him to enter a path of truth,” the statement said.
“Faced with Marko Rupnik’s repeated refusal to obey this mandate, we were unfortunately left with only one solution: dismissal from the Society of Jesus.”
The order said that Rupnik had 30 days to appeal the decision, beginning June 14, the date that he received the decree of dismissal.
“If and only when Fr. Marko Rupnik’s resignation from the Society becomes final will it be possible to explore the issues further. Not before,” the statement concluded.
Silere non possum quoted Oct. 25 an unnamed Jesuit at the order’s Curia in Rome as saying: “When we received the communication from the Bishop of Koper, we limited ourselves to communicating to him the document with Rupnik’s resignation from the Society of Jesus. We cannot do more than that.”
“It is clear that if the nuncio and the bishop proceed with this belief it means that there is someone who protects Rupnik who is much more important than this curia,” the source alleged, according to Silere non possum.
The Society of Jesus acknowledged on Dec. 2, 2022, that complaints were sent to the Vatican in 2021 and were investigated.
The Jesuits explained that in October 2022, the Vatican decided not to pursue canonical charges against Rupnik over the abuse allegations, because the relevant statute of limitations had run out.
The order added that since the complaint was sent to the Vatican, the priest had been prohibited from hearing confessions, giving spiritual direction, offering the spiritual exercises, or engaging in public ministry without the permission of his religious superior.
Speaking to journalists on Dec. 14, 2022, the Jesuit superior general Fr. Arturo Sosa said that Rupnik had been excommunicated, but that the penalty was remitted after the artist repented of the serious canonical crime of absolving an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment.
Rupnik was well known in the Church as the director of the Centro Aletti, an institute founded in the 1990s at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome as a center of art, theology, and culture.
His mosaics decorate some of the most prominent Catholic pilgrimage destinations, including Lourdes and the crypt chapel in San Giovanni Rotondo, which contains Padre Pio’s tomb.
In 2020, he preached a Lenten meditation for priests working in the Vatican. He met with Pope Francis in January 2022, and received an honorary doctorate from a Catholic university in Brazil in November 2022 that was later revoked.
Despite facing a rising number of allegations of spiritual and sexual abuse, Rupnik continued to maintain a public profile, concelebrating Mass at a basilica in Rome in March. He also remained an official adviser to several Vatican departments.
The Italian newspaper Domani reported that Rupnik recently defied restrictions by undertaking work trips to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The German Catholic website Katholisch.de said that as recently as June, Rupnik had “completed work on a Franciscan church in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and had begun further work, including on a bishop’s chapel on the Croatian island of Hvar.”
The artist’s then superior Fr Johan Verschueren, S.J., said that the journeys were “a serious transgression of the restrictive measures imposed on Fr. Rupnik.”
At an Oct. 25 Vatican press conference, Cardinal Robert Francis Prevost was asked whether the synod on synodality had dedicated significant time to the discussion of safeguarding, as requested by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
The prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops said: “The synod is a synod on synodality, and the primary energies, time, and topics were all related to ‘how do we promote a synodal Church?’ Protection of minors was discussed at some tables, I understand, more than at others, perhaps.”
“It was an issue in the sense of saying, what are some of the problems that may arise and how can we better address them? But that was not meant to be the central topic of the synod. And so I’m not prepared to say that became the focus of the synod because that was not the synod’s purpose.”
“It’s an ongoing topic, obviously, in many countries around the world, many parts of the Church, and it will have to continue to be that. But I think it’s important also that it be kept in a proper perspective, because the whole life of the Church does not revolve around that specific issue as important as it is.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated Oct. 25 with a statement from the Diocese of Koper.