Archbishop, Carmelite nuns sign agreement after conflict over alleged Marian apparitions

Monastery of San Bernardo in Salta, Argentina Monastery of San Bernardo in Salta, Argentina | Photo credit: AICA

The Discalced Carmelite sisters of the monastery of San Bernardo in Salta, Argentina, signed an agreement Aug. 27 with the local archbishop, Mario Antonio Cargnello, following the conflict caused by alleged Marian apparitions and a complaint by the nuns against the prelate accusing him of gender violence, which the archdiocese denies.

In a statement published Sept. 3, Cardinal João Braz De Aviz, prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said that the agreement “is the fruit of the spirit of conciliation that the parties have shown in responding to the call of the Holy Father Francis made through Dr. D. Javier Belda Iniesta.”

The Holy Father appointed Father Belda Iniesta as his delegate “to help restore fraternal dialogue between the two institutions, always respecting the autonomy of the secular world and the powers that belong to the bishop, the competent dicastery, and the prioress of the community.”

Belda Iniesta is the canon lawyer of the bishop emeritus of Oran, Gustavo Zanchetta, sentenced to prison for sexual abuse and who is now serving his time under house arrest in a convent in Argentina.

In the agreement, the parties accept the delegate as guarantor of the decisions adopted, for which the dicastery suspended “the decision to appoint an Apostolic Assistant until April 1, 2023, the date on which the guarantor will report on the effective fulfillment of the signed agreements.”

Among the main provisions of the agreement are that the archbishop will appoint a delegate for the election of the prioress or superior of the monastery, who in turn will propose a priest as chaplain who will be approved by the archbishop.

Another point of the agreement is that the monastery will provide an annual financial report, and each sister will be able to “practice the particular devotions that she wishes,” always bearing in mind “the obligation to preserve communion with the Church and promote its common good.”

The conflict

On April 26, the apostolic nunciature in Buenos Aires announced the completion of the apostolic visit or investigation, properly carried out by Martín De Elizalde, the bishop emeritus of Santo Domingo, and the Reverend Sister Isabel Guiroy at the San Bernardo convent, a Vatican statement said at that time.

The Dicastery for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life determined that the community of Carmelite Sisters of Salta “should not in any way become involved in activities linked to the so-called spiritual work ‘I am the Immaculate Mother of the Divine Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and I am the Most Sacred Eucharistic Heart of Jesus’ and support this activity.”

The aforementioned spiritual “work,” also known as the “Virgin of the Hill,” refers to alleged apparitions of the Mother of God and Jesus Christ to the Salta parishioner María Livia Galliano de Obeid since 1990 and which purportedly still continue.

These alleged apparitions are not approved by the Church.

The dicastery then clarified that “it awaits the bishop of the place, or through him the competent Congregation of the Apostolic See, to discern the veracity of (the apparitions) and authorize the (devotional) practices in this context.”

The Sept. 3 Vatican statement did not address the authenticity of the apparitions.

Complaint for ‘gender violence’

On April 12, a formal complaint was filed with the Office of Family and Gender Violence with the Salta Judiciary by three Discalced Carmelite nuns from Salta against Cargnello for supposedly having committed “gender violence” and harassment against the prioress and the sisters.

Following the complaint, a local judge ordered there to be police outside the monastery, a decision that is now null and void.

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Eduardo Jesús Romani, a lawyer for the archdiocese, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, at that time that the complaint filed with the Family and Gender Violence Court No. 3 “is generic and none of the facts constitute gender violence.”

“Moral and economic violence is foisted on (Archbishop Cargnello). Clearly this situation does not exist nor is it documented in the file,” he stated.

The lawyer explained that the complaint would have had as “background the relationship with the so-called ‘Virgin of the Hill,’” the alleged Marian apparitions that are not approved by the Church.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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