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ROME

Scandal-rocked Legionaries start reform meetings at Vatican

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© ANSA

Rome, January 9 - A scandal-rocked Catholic
movement close to Pope John Paul II whose founder was a child
sex abuser began reform meetings at the Vatican on Thursday.
The meetings, known as an Extraordinary General Chapter,
are the first since the Legionaries of Christ were put under
Vatican oversight in 2010 after its founder, Mexican priest
Marcial Maciel, was removed from leadership for inflicting
decades of sexual abuse on boys and fathering several children,
two of whom he also abused.
The scandal tainted the pontificate of John Paul, a friend
of the charismatic founder who publicly endorsed the
Legionaries, sparking accusations of ignoring public reports as
early as the 1990s of abuse that began in the 1980s.
Maciel was stripped of his leadership role and ordered to a
life of prayer and penitence by John Paul's successor Benedict
XVI in 2006 and died two years later in disgrace.
Church probes have since confirmed nine other priests
sexually abused children and at least 10 more are still under
investigation.
Some Vatican watchers have suggested John Paul's
canonisation, scheduled for the spring this year, may have been
held up by his friendship with Maciel.
The meetings, which will go on for six weeks, are being
watched as an important chapter in the reform drive of Pope
Francis, who has called for a major reworking of the group's
internal structure, said to be very secretive in order to
prevent whistle-blowing, according to internal probes.
Known to encourage joining the priesthood and recruit new
followers, the Legionaries count over 950 priests and 70,000 lay
members worldwide, primarily in Latin America, the Argentine
pope's home.
The Chapter is being overseen by Pontifical Delegate to the
Legion Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, under Francis's close watch.
"The Pope has been very attentive, very close, and he
rightly wants to follow the journey we are undertaking," said De
Paolis in an interview with Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi
for Vatican Radio.
"Because - and these are (the pope's) words - 'he feels a
great responsibility, as the Successor of Peter, to accompany
religious and consecrated life'".
(photo: Pontifical Delegate to the Legion Cardinal Velasio De
Paolis)

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