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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– Pope Francis has denied having any involvement in deciding or assisting the case of Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, the Jesuit priest whose alleged psychological and sexual abuse has raised questions about the Vatican and the Pope’s actions.

In a newly released interview he granted to the Associated Press, the Pontiff fielded questions on his health, critics of his papacy, his relationship with China, along with homosexuality and the issue of sexual abuse.

READ: Pope Francis says Church must fight anti-sodomy laws and bishops who support them need conversion

Francis used the interview to make his first comments about the now notorious Fr. Rupnik case; indeed, they are the first comments to come either from the Pope or any Vatican official since news broke in December 2022.

Speaking to the AP, Francis stated he had no role in deciding on the case, or even in how it was handled, apart from in one instance. While much of the media coverage has questioned Francis’ alleged role in covering-up for Rupnik, Francis portrayed himself as the one who helped the case proceed by apparently stepping in to keep the “second set of accusations from the nine women with the same tribunal that had heard the first.”

Francis stated he did this in order to “let it continue with the normal court, because, if not, procedural paths are divided and everything gets muddled up.”

“So I had nothing to do with this,” argued Francis, meaning interfering with Rupnik’s case.

In light of this, Messa in Latino – which has been leading the coverage of the Rupnik case – responded to Francis’ interview, suggesting that he was “lying diplomatically” in order to save face in the matter. 

The Rupnik case vs. Francis’ testimony

As LifeSiteNews has extensively reported – HEREHEREHERE and HERE – Rupnik has been accused of psychologically and sexually abusing religious sisters in the Loyola Community, an order that he himself was a co-founder. The religious community was founded by a nun to whom Rupnik was both a friend and a “spiritual father.” 

Testimony from a former member of the community further accused Rupnik of having sexually abused about 20 of the 41 nuns in the community in the early 1990s.

Yet, in October 2022, the Congregation for the Dicastery of the Faith (CDF) dropped the case, referencing time limitations. According to Messa in Latino, this was because of Pope Francis: “Despite this, it seems that, due to the Holy Father’s intervention, the process did not take place precisely because it was ‘time-barred’ [bound by the statute of limitations.]”

According to the AP, Francis stated that he “always” waived the statute of limitations in cases that deal with either minors or “vulnerable adults,” waives the statute of limitations for cases involving minors and “vulnerable adults,” but the AP reported Francis said he otherwise would not change the normal legal proceedings.

Francis stated, “No loose reins with minors, the reins are pulled pretty tight.”

READ: Former nun details years of ‘satanic’ sex abuse by Jesuit priest Fr. Rupnik

In a separate offense, Rupnik was also automatically excommunicated and found guilty by the CDF’s ecclesiastical court of absolving in confession a woman with whom he had sexual relations.

In January 2020, the judges in the penal process “unanimously” declared “that there was indeed absolution of an accomplice.” 

Only a few weeks later, Rupnik was then invited by Pope Francis to deliver a Lenten homily to the Papal household in March 2020. 

Such an action is even more difficult to explain given that Pope Francis received the Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer S.J., three times in 2020 before Rupnik’s March homily. According to the Pope’s public calendar – for other meetings may have taken place privately – Ladaria met with Francis on January 10, 23, and February 6.

Then in May 2020, the CDF pronounced that Rupnik had absolved an accomplice, meaning that he had incurred the latae sententiae excommunication, an excommunication that – according to the Jesuits – was lifted by a “CDF decree later that month.”

However, Messa in Latino, which had jointly broken the news about Rupnik, has stated that this excommunication was lifted by Pope Francis himself, who intervened within “a few hours” to overturn the excommunication.

READ: Pope reportedly intervened to lift excommunication of sexually active, abusive Jesuit priest

Messa in Latino wrote: 

A few hours after the notification of the sentence, however, due to pressure from Fr. Rupnik the Holy Father lifted the excommunication, in contrast with the decisions of the court. The Jesuits themselves, who had a statement on the matter ready, were stopped.

Messa in Latino has consistently reported this alleged intervention of Pope Francis.

Indeed, Rupnik’s excommunication for absolving an accomplice in confession was a direct violation of Canon 977, leading to a latae sententiae excommunication, according to Canon 1378 §1. Canon 1378 §1 specifically states that it is “reserved to the Apostolic See” to lift the excommunication.

More recent reports have added to the already weighty accusations made against Francis in the affair. Italian news outlet Left, which was involved in breaking the Rupnik case, reported January 4 that Pope Francis allegedly ignored letters from nuns Rupnik abused in the religious community.

The report stated that four nuns had written to the Pope detailing the alleged abuse. “Pope Francis never answered this and the other 3 letters,” Left wrote.

READ: Pope Francis ignored letters from nuns allegedly abused by Fr. Rupnik: report

Yet Francis denied all association with the case, apart from the solitary intervention he made in a supposed attempt to assist the process.

The Pope added that the allegations against Rupnik were a surprise. “For me, it was a surprise, really. This, a person, an artist of this level — for me was a big surprise, and a wound.”

The AP stated that Francis called for more “transparency,” appearing to paint himself as leading the fight in an “uphill battle in an institution that for centuries has handled predator priests behind closed doors.”

“With transparency comes a very nice thing, which is shame. Shame is a grace,” he said.