Jesuits in Slovenia have asked for forgiveness from the women who have have accused Father Marko Rupnik, S..J, of spiritual and sexual abuse, saying they believe the claims.

Rupnik, a Jesuit priest and artist originally from Slovenia, has been accused of the sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse of at least nine women from a religious community with which he was formerly connected.

The alleged abuse took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. An investigation into the claims was dropped by the Vatican in October 2022 due to the statute of limitations.

“It is obvious that, as a province, in the past we did not know how to listen to the victims and take appropriate action to clear up the issues and put an end to the suffering. We fully accept and understand the indignation, anger, and disappointment of the victims and their loved ones,” the Slovenian Jesuits wrote in a statement posted to their website Jan. 6.

The Jesuits said the abuse claims “deeply shook us. We believe in the sincerity of the religious sisters and other victims who spoke about their suffering and other circumstances regarding emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse by our brother.”

“We sincerely ask everyone for forgiveness,” they said, addressing in particular the victims and former and current members of the Loyola Community.

The allegations of victims “undoubtedly show that the competent Church leaders did not take appropriate action, as a result of which the unsuspected suffering of a number of women was increased and prolonged,” the statement said.

Rupnik’s ministry is overseen by superiors in Rome, where he has lived since 1993.

The artworks of the 68-year-old sacred artist decorate Catholic churches, chapels, and shrines around the world, including the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican and the major seminary of Rome.

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“We all want the whole truth to come out, which will allow everyone involved to get justice,” the Slovenian Jesuits said, noting that “an investigation and judicial process is usually necessary to reveal the truth.”

Following media revelations, the bishops of Slovenia also issued a statement about Rupnik.

The bishops said they held an extraordinary meeting in Ljubljana on Dec. 21, 2022, to discuss the Rupnik case.

They condemned the alleged abuse and said they support the Jesuits “in their quest for truth and justice.”

“Victims are never guilty!” the bishops said. “We are on the side of the victims. We express our compassion and closeness to them and commit ourselves to help them.”

In light of Rupnik’s success as a sacred artist, the bishops also asked people to “distinguish his unacceptable and reprehensible actions from his extraordinary spiritual and artistic accomplishments in mosaics and other areas. These facts are a great test of our faith and trust in God.”

Media reports published in early December 2022 alleged that Rupnik had, approximately three decades ago, sexually, spiritually, and psychologically abused sisters in a religious institute with which he was formerly associated.

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Following the reports, the Jesuits in Rome confirmed that Rupnik had also incurred an automatic excommunication for absolving an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment. The excommunication was verified, and shortly afterward lifted, by the Vatican in 2020.

The Jesuits said Rupnik’s ministry has been under restrictions since 2019 and 2020. While under restrictions, the Jesuit artist has continued to preach online and receive public accolades. In March 2020, he gave one of the annual Lenten sermons to the Roman Curia and Pope Francis.