LOURDES (LifeSiteNews) — The Catholic bishop of Lourdes and Tarbes has announced that the current artwork by disgraced Father Marko Ivan Rupnik at the Marian shrine of Lourdes is under review, following the multiple allegations of varying abuse made against the priest.
“The victims must be at the center of our reflections,” announced Bishop Jean-Marc Micas in a statement issued March 31.
In 2008, Rupnik — widely known throughout Italy for his artwork — was responsible for designing the facade of the Basilica of the Rosary at the Shrine of Lourdes, to mark the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady. The mosaics are of the Luminous mysteries of the rosary, and adorn the front of the basilica at the world-famous shrine, visited by an estimated six million pilgrims every year.
Micas’ press release was in response to the recent reports about Fr. Rupnik S.J., who has been accused of sexually and spiritually abusing numerous people, including nuns and male victims. The Jesuit was also excommunicated for absolving a sexual accomplice in confession, but subsequently had the penalty revoked.
The Jesuits have stated the credibility of allegations against Rupnik is “very high,” and he is banned from any “public ministerial and sacramental activity,” including from any public artistic actions.
With this in mind, Bishop Micas wrote that “[t]he question of the status of his [Rupnik’s] works and their future has been raised.”
“Given the specificity of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, the general question of the status of the works of artists involved in situations of abuse is considerably more sensitive here,” added the bishop.
Speaking to the Associated Press last week, Father Johan Verschueren S.J. (Rupnik’s superior), mentioned that “every week one or two new testimonies knock at our door.”
Noting Lourdes as a site of “healing” for pilgrims and “victims,” Micas highlighted the “distress” which is encountered upon seeing Rupnik’s artwork at the shrine.
Lourdes is a place where many victims come to the Immaculate Conception to seek consolation and healing. Their distress is great in front of Mr. Rupnik’s mosaics in this same place: we cannot ignore it.
In an interview with French Catholic new site La Vie, Micas had revealed that the Shrine of Lourdes had been receiving a number of questions about the future of Rupnik’s mosaics.
These questions come from people who are victims of sexual violence in the Church, who know that these mosaics were made by him, and who are waiting for a gesture. For these people, it is very difficult to see the work of this priest, especially here. Lourdes is a place of healing, some pilgrims come to the Immaculate Conception to find themselves after a situation of abuse … In this context, coming face-to-face with a work of Rupnik is an additional aggression.
These thoughts Micas echoed in the March 31 press statement, announcing that in conjunction with the Shrine rector — Father Michael Daubanes — and the Sanctuary’s Orientation Council, the future of Rupnik’s art in Lourdes is being “addressed with great seriousness: we are well aware, from now on, that the victims must be at the center of our reflections, and any decision will have serious consequences.”
As a result, a group is being established in order to review the future of the Jesuit’s artwork in Lourdes. Composed of Micas and Fr. Daubanes, it will also include “at least one victim” — presumably of Rupnik’s — along with a psychotherapist and an expert in sacred art.
The “reflection group” has been tasked with presenting a variety of options for the artwork, with no specific outcomes mentioned in the statement and nothing being ruled out at this stage.
Meanwhile, the testimonies against Rupnik continue to amass. Speaking to the Associated Press last week, Father Johan Verschueren S.J. (Rupnik’s superior), mentioned that “every week one or two new testimonies knock at our door.”
“We get ever more, a clear and a comprehensive view of what happened in the past and what is the real nature and size of the case,” he added.
Rupnik is currently the focus of a fresh investigation by his Jesuit order, which could lead to disciplinary action. However, Verschueren stated in February that Rupnik had rejected previous opportunities to assist the inquiries being made into his actions.
Fresh restrictions related to the start of the investigation were placed on Rupnik’s artistic activities in February, as Verschueren revealed that Rupnik’s art is linked to his alleged instances of abuse. “I only take measures when there are reasons for risk,” stated Rupnik’s superior.
Yet he stopped short of finding issue with the artwork itself, saying that “I asked myself, Johan, is it hard to pray before these mosaics? My response is no. In a way, I’ve been able to separate the art from the artist.”
In addition to the Basilica at Lourdes, Rupnik’s artwork is found in numerous churches and shrines around the world, including that of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo and the Vatican City.