The Sanctuary of Lourdes may remove Rupnik’s mosaics out of respect for victims

rupnik lourdes A mosaic designed by Father Marko Rupnik's studio, at Lourdes | Pixabay|domakono

Mosaic art created by Father Marko Rupnik could be removed from the Basilica of the Sanctuary of Lourdes, France, out of consideration for victims of abuse who come to the sanctuary in search of consolation, the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes said.

“Lourdes is a place where many victims turn to the Immaculate Conception for comfort and healing. Their anguish is great before the mosaics of Father Rupnik in this very place: We cannot ignore it,” Bishop Jean-Marc Micas said in a statement released Friday.

Rupnik, a Jesuit priest and artist, founded the Aletti Center, an art school in Rome dedicated to religious art. He has been accused of sexually and psychologically abusing consecrated women from the Loyola Community in Slovenia who were associated with the Aletti Center.

As the National Catholic Register reported earlier this year, Rupnik’s art decorates more than 200 churches and shrines around the world, including at Lourdes, Fatima, and the Vatican.

The Jesuit order has received accusations against Rupnik that span from 1985 to 2018 and include claims of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience.

According to current restrictions imposed by the Jesuit order, Rupnik is prohibited “from any public ministerial and sacramental activity,” banned from public communication, ordered not to leave Lazio, and “may not engage in any public artistic activity, especially in relation to religious structures (such as churches, institutions, oratories and chapels, exercise or spirituality houses).”

In April, the bishop of Lourdes said, a decision will be made regarding what to do about the mosaics by Rupnik that decorate the Shrine at Lourdes.

The work was commissioned in 2008 for the facade of the Basilica of the Rosary at the Sanctuary of Lourdes on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Mother.

The bishop of Lourdes said in his statement: “Like all works of art, they are appreciated by some, less by others, but the vast majority of pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes highlight their beauty.”

He then noted that “for several months, Father Rupnik has been in the news following various accusations of sexual abuse of adults in the framework of his ministry in various parts of the world.” 

He noted that because Rupnik “has been sanctioned by his religious superiors and by the Holy See …the question of the status of his works and his future is being raised.”

Consultations with victims

“Given the specific nature of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes,” the bishop said, “the general question of the status of the works of artists involved in situations of abuse is much more delicate here.” 

Millions of pilgrims travel to Lourdes every year to receive healing at the site where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous.

The bishop reported that on March 27, together with the rector of the shrine, Father Michel Daubanes: “We brought this matter to the attention of the Guidance Council of the Shrine.” 

“The issue was discussed with great seriousness: We know that the victims must be at the center of our reflections, and any decision will have serious consequences,” he said. 

He said that a “reflection group” has been established, made up of the bishop, the rector, a victim of abuse, an expert in sacred art, and a psychotherapist, whose objective is to reach a determination in April. 

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During this time, they intend to “develop the necessary elements to make the best decision, carry out this reflection in the most serene way possible and not reject any decision hypothesis a priori.”

Finally, Bishop Micas said that he was entrusting this process and the decision to be made “to the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, and to the mercy of God.”

“I also count on the prayers and support of the faithful of the diocese and of those who love the Sanctuary of Lourdes,” he concluded.

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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