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Pope Francis lifts statute of limitations in Father Marko Rupnik sex abuse allegations

The Vatican said Friday that Pope Francis is lifting the statute of limitations in the alleged sexual abuse case of Father Mark Rupnik. Rupnik is accused of abusing women he worked with for more than 30 years and recently returned as a priest to a diocese in Slovenia. File Photo by Giuseppe Lami/EPA-EFE
The Vatican said Friday that Pope Francis is lifting the statute of limitations in the alleged sexual abuse case of Father Mark Rupnik. Rupnik is accused of abusing women he worked with for more than 30 years and recently returned as a priest to a diocese in Slovenia. File Photo by Giuseppe Lami/EPA-EFE

Oct. 27 (UPI) -- The Vatican said Friday that Pope Francis has lifted the statute of limitations on sexual abuse allegations against former Jesuit priest and mosaic artist Father Marko Rupnik.

A statement from the Holy See said Francis was made aware last month of "serious problems" in the handling of the case including a "lack of outreach to victims."

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"Consequently, the Holy Father asked the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to review the case, and decided to lift the statute of limitations to allow a process to take place," it said.

Rupnik was accused of sexual and psychological abuse by consecrated women who he worked with over more than 30 years.

He was expelled from the Society of Jesus in June for failing to obey the directions of his superiors but has returned to work as a priest in a Slovenia diocese.

Pope Francis held a private meeting with Maria Campatelli, one of Rupnik's collaborators after she published a letter alleging "a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations" against him.

Women who said they were victimized by Rupnik responded with an open letter saying they had been left "speechless" by the audience between Francis and Campatelli and a subsequent statement by the Diocese of Rome praising an art and theology center founded by Rupnik as a "healthy community."

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"We recognize that the church cares nothing about the victims and those seeking justice; and that the 'zero tolerance on abuse in the church' was only an advertising campaign, which was instead followed only by often hidden actions, which instead supported and covered up the perpetrators of abuse. The victims are left in the voiceless cry of a new abuse," they wrote.

The Vatican's statement came amid a monthlong Synod assembly called by Francis.

"The Pope is firmly convinced that if there is one thing the Church must learn from the Synod it is to listen attentively and compassionately to those who are suffering, especially those who feel marginalized from the Church," the Holy See said Friday.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors welcomed the pope's decision to lift the statute of limitations in the case Friday.

"As the Synod comes to a close, we repeat the important role that a culture of safeguarding should play in any theology of ministry, leadership or worship," it said. "The core of the church's mandate is to render everyone safe, to protect the vulnerable from whatever threatens them, and to lead them to the fullness of life known through God's own promises."

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