An Argentine see fell vacant again Wednesday after a second bishop in a row resigned before he was installed as head of the diocese.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation Jan. 17 of 62-year-old Bishop Gustavo Larrazábal, 35 days after he appointed him as Bishop of Mar del Plata, in eastern Argentina, and just three days before Larrazábal’s installation.
The pope had nominated Larrazábal on the day that he accepted the resignation of 65-year-old Bishop José María Baliña, 22 days after he had named him as the head of the diocese serving around 774,000 Catholics.
The Vatican did not provide reasons for the resignations of either bishop. But Baliña said in a Dec. 5 letter to Catholics in Mar del Plata that he had struggled following surgery for a retinal detachment and had decided to resign “after further discernment and consultation with the Holy See.”
In a Jan. 17 letter to members of the diocese, Larrazábal wrote: “I share with you that after a process of discernment and prayer carried out very conscientiously, I have concluded that it is not opportune to assume the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Mar del Plata and I have presented my resignation to Pope Francis, who with much understanding accepted it.”
“For this reason, I will continue my service as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Juan.”
Before Larrazábal’s resignation, the apostolic nunciature to Argentina took the usual step of issuing a public statement underlining that the Holy See had “full confidence” in the bishop.
The Jan. 9 press release also deplored what it described as “the rumors that circulate and have no basis.”
The nunciature did not specify the nature of the rumors, but the local daily newspaper La Capital reported the same day that Larrazábal’s installation was in doubt due to the emergence of allegations against the bishop, a member of the Claretian order.
The paper said that Larrazábal had faced allegations of harassment and abuse of power from an unnamed woman from Mar del Plata who works for an organization linked to the Church. It said that its reporters had “obtained testimonies from people very close to the woman,” who did not wish to speak with the media.
“The 56-year-old woman charged that the events occurred in Buenos Aires between 2007 and 2013, after which the religious was transferred to Mendoza, the province where he was born on Jan. 31, 1961, in the town of San José, Guaymallén Department,” La Capital wrote.
Larrazábal, who was appointed an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Juan de Cuyo, in western Argentina, in March 2022, does not appear to have responded publicly to the allegations.
The Diocese of Mar del Plata fell vacant on July 28, 2023, when its Bishop Gabriel Antonio Mestre was named Archbishop of La Plata, succeeding Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, after Fernández was named prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.
While Pope Francis considers his third pick for the diocese, Buenos Aires Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Giobando, S.J., will serve as the apostolic administrator of Mar del Plata.
The diocese, which was established in 1957 from the territories of the Archdiocese of Bahía Blanca and the Archdiocese of La Plata, has 49 parishes, 68 priests, 14 permanent deacons, 74 female religious, and 23 male religious.
Its second bishop was Eduardo Francisco Pironio, who went on to be named a cardinal and serve as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Rome. He was beatified on Dec. 16, 2023, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján in Buenos Aires.