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President Juan Hernández at the UN in September 2021; Cardinal Oscar MaradiagaEduardo Munoz - Pool/Getty Image & YouTube screenshot

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (LifeSiteNews) – The former president of Honduras, who is closely linked to an intimate confidante of Pope Francis, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, has been charged by U.S. officials with drug smuggling, in an event which is being linked to Maradiaga’s own resignation.

Juan Orlando Hernández, the former president of Honduras from 2014 through 2022, was extradited to the U.S. on April 21, having been charged with drug trafficking and arms smuggling. In a press release, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) stated:

… from at least in or about 2004, up to and including in or about 2022, Hernández, the former two-term President of Honduras, participated in a corrupt and violent drug-trafficking conspiracy to facilitate the importation of hundreds of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States. Hernández allegedly received millions of dollars to use his public office, law enforcement, and the military to support drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico, and elsewhere.

Charges laid against Hernández include protecting “some of the largest drug traffickers in the world,” such as his brother, who is already serving life imprisonment for drug trafficking, as well as sanctioning “brutal violence.” 

The 53-year-old politician served as president of the Honduran National Congress from January 2010 through 2014, at which point he was elected president in a disputed election and served two terms until January 2022. 

RELATED: Cardinal Maradiaga, the scandal-ridden close ally of Pope Francis, announces resignation

His arrest and indictment by U.S. authorities is now being linked to the recent resignation announcement made by Honduras’ Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, by a former close friend of the cardinal. 

Cardinal Maradiaga is a key figure in the Vatican, leading Pope Francis’ C9 Council of Cardinals, and has been dubbed the “vice-pope” due to his close relationship with Francis. 

Maradiaga is also described as being a “friend and accomplice” of Hernández by Martha Alegría Reichmann, the widow of Honduras’ former ambassador to the Holy See, Alejandro Valladares. Both Reichmann and Valladares were close friends of Maradiaga for years.

Maradiaga: The politician Cardinal of Honduras

Reichmann and her late husband Valladares were friends of Maradiaga for many decades, even hosting him in their home, with Valladares’ lobbying reportedly being crucial to Maradiaga becoming the first Honduran cardinal. However, Maradiaga subsequently “betrayed” them, lost their life savings in his investment schemes, and ignored their subsequent petitions for help.

Reichmann details these events in her recently translated book Sacred Betrayals: A Widow Raises Her Voice Against the Corruption of the Francis Papacy, in which she reveals evidence that Cardinal Maradiaga covered up the sexual abuse and misconduct of his auxiliary bishop, Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, and diverted millions of dollars of Church money to fraudulent investment schemes that have since disappeared.

Maradiaga, aged 79, had his mandatory resignation refused by Pope Francis when aged 75, even though he has been beset with reports of financial and sexual cover-up scandals for a number of years, for which he has still refused to answer.  

Now, in a essay published on the website of Vatican journalist Marco Tossatti, Reichmann highlighted Maradiaga’s recent resubmission of his resignation to Pope Francis, and linked it to Hernández’s arrest. 

She wrote first on Maradiaga’s historical involvement in Honduras’ politics: 

Rodríguez Maradiaga was visibly colluded with that regime that turned Honduras into a ‘narco state.’ As president of the Episcopal Conference, he signed a letter supporting the 2009 coup. Then in Rome he denied his support, perhaps because the regime was repudiated by the international community and Rodríguez had aspirations to the papacy.

Maradiaga does indeed have a history of entwining himself in Honduras’ political affairs. A July 2009 report by the Guardian described Maradiaga as “at odds with the present regime [President Zelaya] over their enthusiasm for a free trade agreement with the US.”

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By all accounts, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres' diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico is flourishing because of his adherence to the perennial teachings of the Church.

But, without any formal proceedings, Bishop Fernández Torres has been summarily 'relieved' of his episcopal duties allegedly because he championed conscience rights in the face of a Church vaccine mandate in Puerto Rico.

Please SIGN this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres now.

To be clear, COVID-19 is a serious disease, oftentimes with debilitating consequences, or worse, for those who contract it.

However, all coronavirus vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have been tested on or produced with cell lines of aborted babies. And, the vaccines have been linked to serious side effects, while none has yet completed long-term testing.

Given the complexity of this issue, the Church has determined that getting vaccinated is a matter of personal discernment which each individual must make after informing his or her conscience.

As such, the Church teaches that there is no moral obligation to be vaccinated. Indeed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Church's teaching authority where faith and moral are concerned, issued a statement to that effect in December, 2020.

Specifically, the CDF's, “Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines,” of December 17, 2020, n. 5 states: “At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary.”

Therefore, it would appear that for simply restating the current teaching of the CDF and for opposing his brother bishops in Puerto Rico on this seminal matter of conscientious objection, Rome is now attempting to "cancel" Bishop Fernández Torres.

This is wrong, unfair and discriminatory!

And, Bishop Fernández Torres is hardly the first bishop to defend Church teaching on conscientious objection on the issue of mandatory vaccination. Both the Colorado and South Dakota bishops' conferences released similar statements, and like Bishop Fernández Torres, they also offered to validate religious exemptions for member of their flock who asked to be exempted from vaccination.

Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres.

For his part, Bishop Fernández Torres, 57, a staunch defender of life and family, protested his removal as "totally unjust" in a statement released Wednesday (3/9/2022).

The bishop, who led his diocese for nearly 12 years, noted that Pope Francis’ apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico verbally requested that he resign, but said that he refused to do so, as he "did not want to become an accomplice of a totally unjust action."

"No process has been made against me," Bishop Fernández Torres wrote, "nor have I been formally accused of anything, and simply one day the apostolic delegate verbally communicated to me that Rome was asking me to resign."

“A successor of the apostles is now being replaced without even undertaking what would be a due canonical process to remove a parish priest,” the bishop added.

“I was informed that I had committed no crime but that I supposedly ‘had not been obedient to the pope nor had I been in sufficient communion with my brother bishops of Puerto Rico,’” he said. “It was suggested to me that if I resigned from the diocese I would remain at the service of the Church in case at some time I was needed in some other position; an offer that in fact proves my innocence.”

Please SIGN and SHARE this urgent petition to Pope Francis urging him to reinstate Bishop Fernández Torres. Thank you!

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Pope Francis abruptly removes faithful bishop who opposed COVID vaccine mandates' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-abruptly-removes-faithful-bishop-who-opposed-covid-vaccine-mandates/

'Puerto Rico bishop supports conscience objections to COVID vaccines, allows priests to sign exemptions' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/puerto-rico-bishop-supports-conscience-objections-to-covid-vaccines-allows-priests-to-sign-exemptions/

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He then supported the 2009 military-led coup which saw President Manuel Zelaya ousted from power and replaced by the Speaker of Congress as an interim president. The U.N., the E.U., and much of the Western Hemisphere condemned the coup, but – as noted by Reichmann – Maradiaga vocally supported it.

A 2011 report by humanitarian group Refugee Transitions noted how Maradiaga was a key figure in supporting the coup: “The Honduran Business Council, the Civic Democratic Union, the Honduran Catholic Church, (led by Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga Rodriguez), the media and other international interests also supported it.”

“Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga Rodriguez appeared on television and radio telling Zelaya not to return, warning there would be bloodshed if he did,” noted the report.

Zelaya himself, speaking after he was ousted, declared that Maradiaga “conspired with the coup leaders. He betrayed the people, the poor. He took off his robes to put on a military uniform. And with his words, he really contributed to the assassinations that have taken place in Honduras.”

Maradiaga, Hernandez both accused of financial misconduct in the millions

Among the charges raised by the DOJ against Hernández, the former president was accused of “allegedly received millions of dollars to use his public office, law enforcement, and the military to support drug-trafficking organizations in Honduras, Mexico, and elsewhere.” 

A similar theme of amassing riches is found in Maradiaga’s personal life, as reports have already highlighted suspected financial misconduct on the part of Maradiaga, particularly in Honduran local press and media. Reichmann, referring to research undertaken by journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, suggested that Maradiaga had already personally amassed over 130 million lempiras (around $5,297,110) by 2016 alone.

Martha Reichmann, having already noted how Maradiaga “visibly colluded with that regime that turned Honduras into a ‘narco state’,” suggested that the arrest of Hernández thus necessitated the departure of Maradiaga. 

Cardinal Maradiaga has announced his retirement at the precise moment when the former president, Juan Orlando Hernández, is extradited to the United States to be tried for drug trafficking and other crimes committed during a dictatorship marked by absolute corruption and full of outrages against the citizens….

Now Rodríguez Maradiaga takes his leave, openly repudiated by his people who blame him for leaving just when, after twelve years of dictatorial rule, his friend and accomplice Juan Orlando Hernández is leaving and therefore remains without protection. 

The people accuse him with harsh epithets: corrupt, dishonest, traitor. All on the basis of evidence showing that for twenty years he protected the terrible immoral network, including financially, directed by former bishop Juan José Pineda, and also for hiding the Costa Rican priest Enrique Vasquez, who arrived in Honduras fleeing Costa Rican justice for raping children.

However, Cardinal Maradiaga still enjoys the strong support and protection of Pope Francis, who elevated the Honduran cardinal to lead the papal advisory council of cardinals only weeks after Francis ascended to the papacy. 

Speaking with the National Catholic Register in 2019, Reichmann said that Maradiaga “is very powerful because he has the absolute support of someone much more powerful, who is Pope Francis.” She added this is why it’s been easy for him to dismiss accusations as “slanders” or those accusing him as “attacking” him “so as to attack the Pope.”

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