Peruvian archbishop resigns after Vatican investigators’ visit

St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. (IStock)

SÃO PAULO (OSV News) — A Vatican investigation of the Peruvian Catholic organization Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, launched in 2023 after more than two decades of spiritual and sexual abuse allegations, has resulted in the resignation of one of its most important members, Archbishop José Antonio Eguren of Piura.

The Vatican announced April 2 that Archbishop Eguren, accused of involvement in abuse cover-up operations waged by the religious group, stepped down without mentioning the official reasons. The archbishop is 67, eight years shy of the age canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope.

“We can certainly say that last year’s visit of Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu is connected to (Archbishop) Eguren’s resignation,” journalist Paola Ugaz told OSV News.

Ugaz and fellow journalist Pedro Salinas published the book “Half Monks, Half Soldiers” in 2015, which described numerous cases of abuse perpetrated over several years by the leaders of Sodalitium.

The work of the two reporters provoked a scandal in the Peruvian Church by making the allegations made for years by former members of the group visible.

The July 2023 visit of Archbishop Scicluna and Msgr. Bertomeu to Peru to investigate the lay organization Sodalitium has been received with confidence by many of the group’s victims, who hoped it would be finally dissolved. Some, however, say, they lost hope that the case will be resolved.

Once a powerful lay institution with massive membership not only in Peru, but in several other countries, Sodalitium was accused of promoting systemic spiritual, physical and sexual abuse against dozens of members for decades, as well as financial corruption.

Sodalitium was founded by lay Catholic Luis Fernando Figari in 1971 and was acknowledged as a society of apostolic life, approved by St. John Paul II in 1997.

Despite Church interventions on different occasions in past years, “nothing was done to hold the abusers responsible” and they “kept perpetrating crimes,” theologian Rocio Figueroa, a former member of Sodalitium, told OSV News in July. A lecturer at Good Shepherd College in New Zealand, Figueroa spent 22 years with the group.

The accusations involved Figari, the founder, and other top members.

While Figari was prohibited by the Vatican to have any contact with Sodalitium members and was sent to Rome in 2017, most of the association’s leaders have not suffered relevant sanctions. The Vatican sent representatives to investigate the group and try to reform it on different occasions, but all those attempts failed to lead to significant change.

The Vatican sent letters to Sodalitium leaders last month demanding explanations and the adoption of new measures. They have 45 days to answer.


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