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Catholic priest in Phoenix forced to apologise after thousands of baptisms found to be invalid

A Catholic priest in Phoenix, Arizona has been forced to resign and apologise after thousands of his baptisms have been found to be invalid because of a grammatical error.

Reverend Andres Arango has been a priest for decades in Brazil, later serving at the Diocese of San Diego and the Diocese of Phoenix.

“It is with sincere pastoral concern that I inform the faithful that baptisms performed by Reverend Andres Arango, a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, are invalid,” Bishop Thomas Olmsted said in a letter, adding that the news was “as difficult to hear as it is challenging for me to announce”.

According to an August 2020 doctrinal note, the priest has been using the invalid baptism formula, “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, the Catholic News Agency reported earlier this week.

“The issue with using ‘We’ is that it is not the community that baptises a person, rather, it is Christ, and him alone, who presides at all of the sacraments, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptises,” Bishop Olmsted said in his 14 January letter.

“I do not believe [Father] Andres had any intentions to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments. On behalf of our local church, I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of a number of the faithful. This is why I pledge to take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted,” he added.

“It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula,” the Reverend said in a letter of his own. “I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere. With the help of the Holy Spirit and in communion with the Diocese of Phoenix I will dedicate my energy and full-time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected.”

“I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience my actions have caused and genuinely ask for your prayers, forgiveness, and understanding,” he added.

“If you were baptised using the wrong words, that means your baptism is invalid, and you are not baptised. You will need to be baptised,” the Phoenix diocese said.

But the diocese also said that Reverend Arango “has not disqualified himself” from the ministry.

The diocese said on its website that they are “working closely with [Father] Andres and the parishes at which he was previously assigned to notify anyone who may have been baptized invalidly. [Father] Andres will be dedicating his time to helping and healing those affected”.

In his letter, the bishop said he pledges “to work diligently and swiftly to bring peace to those who have been affected, and I assure you that I and our diocesan staff are wholeheartedly committed to assisting those who have questions about their reception of the sacraments”.

“It may seem legalistic, but the words that are spoken, along with the actions that are performed and the materials used, are a crucial aspect of every sacrament,” the diocese said.

The Catholic News Agency explained that “as a priest may not substitute milk for wine during the Consecration of the Eucharist, nor may he change the words of baptism”.

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