The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis has decided to lift the statute of limitations in the case of Father Marko Rupnik, the former Jesuit priest and mosaic artist accused of serious abuses against women.

Following the revelation earlier this week that Rupnik had returned to priestly ministry in a diocese in his native Slovenia despite allegations of sexual abuse, the Holy See Press Office released a statement on Oct. 27 saying that Pope Francis had asked for a review of Rupnik’s case.

“In September the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors brought to the pope’s attention that there were serious problems in the handling of the Father Marko Rupnik case and lack of outreach to victims. Consequently, the Holy Father asked the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to review the case and decided to lift the statute of limitations to allow a process to take place,” it said.

“The pope is firmly convinced that if there is one thing the Church must learn from the Synod [on Synodality] it is to listen attentively and compassionately to those who are suffering, especially those who feel marginalized from the Church.”

The Vatican statement comes after the Catholic Diocese of Koper, Slovenia, confirmed on Oct. 25 that Rupnik had been incardinated in the diocese since August, news that sparked outrage and disappointment from many Catholics and abuse victims over the handling of the clerical sex abuse allegations. 

Rupnik was dismissed by the Jesuits in June for failing to obey the directions of his superiors after having been accused of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse spanning more than three decades. 

Pope Francis had a private meeting in September with a close collaborator of Rupnik, Maria Campatelli, after Campatelli published a letter defending Rupnik against “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations.” Shortly after, the Diocese of Rome released a statement praising the art and theology center founded by the former Jesuit artist as “a healthy community.”

Former religious sisters who have accused Rupnik of abusing them responded with “bewilderment,” writing in an open letter that both the pope’s meeting and the Diocese of Rome’s statement ridiculed their pain and showed little care for those seeking justice.

The Vatican statement was released during the last week of the nearly monthlong Synod on Synodality assembly launched by Pope Francis. In a synod press conference on Oct. 25, Cardinal Robert Prevost said that safeguarding had not been “a central topic at the synod.”

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Rupnik’s art decorates more than 200 churches and shrines around the world, including at Lourdes, Fatima, and the Vatican. Bishop Jean-Marc Micas of Tarbes and Lourdes has said that he is considering removing his art from the Marian shrine.