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Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga attends a conference at the Vatican on April 15, 2016.Franco Origlia / Getty Images

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– Pope Francis has finally accepted the resignation of his close confidant, the scandal-ridden Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B. as the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras.

Maradiaga’s resignation at the age of 80 was announced by the Holy See Press Office in its daily bulletin January 26, nine months after the Honduran prelate announced he would soon be resigning, and five years after he tendered his mandatory aged 75 resignation.

In place of Maradiaga, Francis has appointed a parish priest, Father José Vicente Nácher Tatay, as the new archbishop. Nácher is also the Regional Superior of the Congregation of the Mission.

Maradiaga had held the archdiocesan see since since 1993, having previously been the auxiliary of Tegucigalpa from 1978 to 1993. Four weeks after Francis’ ascension to the papacy, Maradiaga was appointed by the Argentinian Pope to be president of Francis’ famous “C9” council of cardinal advisers. As such, he is deemed one of the Pontiff’s closest advisors and has even been dubbed the “vice-pope.”

Who is Maradiaga?

Created cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II, Maradiaga’s rise to power throughout his life arguably reached its peak upon being chosen to lead Francis’ council of cardinal advisors. Indeed, there is no statement from Maradiaga or the Vatican to suggest that he will step down from this role, despite his resignation of his see.

As LifeSiteNews has extensively reported, Maradiaga 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. 

READ: Report: Cardinal close to Pope is protecting cadre of homosexual seminarians in Honduras

The recently translated book Sacred Betrayals: A Widow Raises Her Voice Against the Corruption of the Francis Papacypresents evidence that 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.

The book is written by Martha Alegría Reichmann, the widow of Honduras’ ambassador to the Holy See, Alejandro Valladares. Both were friends of Maradiaga for many decades, even hosting him in their home, and Valladares’ lobbying was reportedly crucial to Maradiaga becoming the first Honduran cardinal. However, Maradiaga allegedly “betrayed” them after a time, lost their life savings in his investment schemes, and ignored their subsequent petitions for help.

READ: ‘Sacred Betrayals’ translator explains corruption of Francis, ‘vice-pope’ Maradiaga

Reports have already highlighted suspected considerable financial misconduct on the part of Maradiaga. But Reichmann, referring to research undertaken by journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi, said that Maradiaga had already personally amassed over 130 million lempiras (around $5,297,110) by 2016.

“I am a victim of this cardinal because he tricked me and my husband into making an investment that turned out to be fraudulent,” she added, referring to the groundbreaking revelations made in Sacred Betrayals.

Protector of homosexual seminarians?

Perhaps more than for his financial and political maneuvers, Maradiaga has become known amongst Vatican watchers due to his alleged protection of homosexual seminarians. In 2018, the National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin reported about the on-going seminary crisis in Honduras, writing:

Latest word from Honduras: All homosexual seminarians have been sent away except those in Tegucigalpa archdiocese who joke they have a very strong and powerful ‘patron saint’: ++ Maradiaga. The cardinal has ‘again used his weight to break rules and agreements with other bishops.’

This was in light of the Register’s report that 50 seminarians in Tegucigalpa’s major seminary were speaking out about widespread homosexual activity in the seminary, and referencing “irrefutable evidence.”

Pentin’s sources told him that “about 40 seminarians [out of a total of 180] are actively homosexual, and about 20 more who are in the closet. Many repress it to be able to reach ordination but once ordained, they are ‘free and unbridled.’”

Upon an order from the Congregation for the Clergy, some 48 seminarians were subsequently sent out from the seminary. However, the homosexual seminarians were reportedly not dismissed, but merely assigned to parochial placement, leaving them free to continue their journey to the priesthood.

Cardinal at work in political sphere

Maradiaga has also enjoyed a close relationship with the workings of the political life of his native Honduras. He even supported the 2009 military-led coup which saw President Manuel Zelaya ousted from power and replaced by the Speaker of Congress as 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.

READ: Ex-president of Honduras linked to top Vatican cardinal extradited to US for drug smuggling

Reichmann described Maradiaga as a “friend and accomplice” of Juan Orlando Hernández, the former president of Honduras from 2014 through 2022, extradited to the U.S. last spring on charges of drug trafficking and arms smuggling.

The cardinal was accused of having “visibly colluded with that regime that turned Honduras into a ‘narco state’,” and Reichmann further suggested that the arrest of Hernández was linked to Maradiaga’s departure from his see.

Papal confidant

With such a wealth of scandal surrounding the Honduran cardinal, his high-level ecclesiastical career might be hard to understand were it not for the fact that he enjoys a close relationship with Pope Francis.

Having led the so-called “C9” group of cardinals since its inception in 2013 (now comprised of only seven cardinals), Maradiaga has wielded an enviable position, possibly only eclipsed in power by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Speaking with the National Catholic Register in 2019, Reichmann stated 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.”

In a January 2022 interview, Maradiaga also revealed the closeness of the relationship he enjoys with Francis, perhaps explaining why his resignation had not been accepted at that point. RomeReports summarized Maradiaga’s comments regarding the Bergoglian pontificate, saying that Francis has “faithfully followed the agreements that came out of the so-called ‘pre-conclave’ meetings, in which cardinals defined a number of steps that must be taken by the next pontiff.” 

These “agreements,” included the organization of the C9 Council of Cardinals, which Maradiaga heads.