Panama’s Cardinal Lacunza apologizes for his disappearance: ‘It was a stupid prank’

Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Cardinal José Luis Lacunza. | Credit: Diocese of David, Panama

Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, the bishop of the Diocese of David in Panama, apologized Feb. 4 at the end of the Sunday Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in David after having been missing for two days but found safe and sound earlier in the week.

Speaking from the ambo, the cardinal told those present, “I want to offer you my apology and ask for your forgiveness for the trouble I caused you in recent days. I know you had a bad time. Some shed abundant tears. I don’t deserve them, I tell you sincerely, but I appreciate them. And above all I appreciate your prayers.”

Without offering details of what happened during the time he was reported missing, the prelate commented: “It was a stupid prank. The fact is I didn’t do them when I was 15 years old and now I’ve done it when I am going to turn 80. How outrageous! The older you are, the more stupid.”

The Spanish word "trastada" which the cardinal used means “a bad action of little consequence,” according to the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary.

“I thank you for all the love and all the prayers on my behalf. A thousand pardons and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your concern,” the cardinal concluded.

The case of the missing cardinal

Lacunza, originally from Pamplona, Spain, disappeared on Jan. 30 and was found safe and sound on Feb. 1. The Diocese of David reported his disappearance to the police and an investigation was launched by the prosecutor’s office.

A diocesan statement published the day he was found expressed gratitude for the efforts of the authorities and reported that the cardinal was going to undergo a medical examination.

Father Josué Pilides, a member of the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Diocese of David, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that the cardinal left the afternoon of Jan. 30 in a pickup truck in a “totally unusual” way because the cardinal is a man with certain habits and has “a pretty regular routine.”

A member of the Order of the Augustinian Recollects, Lacunza made his solemn vows in 1967 in Pamplona and was ordained a priest two years later. After serving as a professor in Madrid, he was assigned to Panama, where he was named auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Panama City in 1985 by St. John Paul II.

In 1995 he was assigned to the Diocese of Chitré and five years later to the Diocese of David. After serving as president of the Panamanian Bishops’ Conference on two occasions, he was created cardinal on Feb. 14, 2015, by Pope Francis.

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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