Lourdes bishop says Rupnik mosaics ‘need to be removed’ from sanctuary

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The mosaics prominently featured in the Marian sanctuary in Lourdes, France, created by Father Marko Rupnik — accused of abusing dozens of women over his decades of ministry — must eventually be removed from the basilica where they are currently displayed, the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes said.

“My deep, formed, intimate conviction is that they will one day need to be removed,” Bishop Jean-Marc Micas of Tarbes and Lourdes said in an interview with French newspaper La Croix published July 2, noting that the mosaics in the sanctuary “prevent Lourdes from reaching all the people for whom the sanctuary’s message is intended.”

The bishop launched a reflection group from May to October 2023 composed of victims, sacred art experts and lawyers among others to assist in deciding the future of the mosaics featured on the facade of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Lourdes.

My deep, formed, intimate conviction is that they will one day need to be removed.

Bishop Jean-Marc Micas of Tarbes and Lourdes

But Bishop Micas said he has decided “not to remove them immediately, given the passions and violence the subject incites,” noting that he wants to work with victims to gather broader support for their removal in order to avoid “tearing the church further apart.”

Still, as a “first step,” the bishop said the mosaics will no longer be lit up during the evening Marian procession which pilgrims to Lourdes attend each night.

Reparation for alleged sexual abuse

His comments came days after U.S. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, wrote a letter to all Vatican dicasteries urging them to exercise “pastoral prudence” before deciding to display artwork by Father Rupnik.

The Slovenian priest is currently under investigation by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith; he has been accused of sexually, psychologically and spiritually abusing more than 20 women over a 40-year period. He was briefly excommunicated and was expelled from the Jesuits in 2023.

Laura Sgrò, a lawyer representing Gloria Branciani — a former religious sister that has reported sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse committed by Father Marko Rupnik — speaks at a news conference at the Italian National Press Federation in Rome Feb. 21, 2024. (CNS photo/Justin McLellan)

Laura Sgrò, the lawyer representing five women who have said they were abused by Father Rupnik, released a statement July 3 noting that while the mosaics will not be illuminated at night, “during the day they will be clearly visible and will continue to feed the bewilderment of the faithful and the feeling of pain of the victims.”

The statement noted that the five women represented by Sgrò are willing to meet with Bishop Micas to discern a path forward “that can truly lead to reparation and consolation.”

Decisions on Rupnik’s artwork

Bishop Micas’ statements come as churches and sanctuaries worldwide that feature artwork by Father Rupnik, including within the Vatican, must decide whether or not to continue displaying his work.

The National Shrine of St. John Paul II in Washington D.C. is extensively decorated with mosaics designed by Father Rupnik. The Knights of Columbus, which own and operate the shrine, told Catholic News Agency in March that they are “carefully considering the best course of action” regarding the future of the mosaics in the shrine.

In May, however, the National Shrine of Aparecida near Sao Paulo inaugurated new mosaics on its basilica made by the Centro Aletti, a Rome-based community of artists and scholars founded by Father Rupnik, and which showcase his easily recognizable style: colorful scenes from the bible displaying figures set in intricate scenery and bearing calm faces with enlarged, black eyes.

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