Argentine archbishop temporarily closes monastery after monks arrested

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Archbishop Marcelo Daniel Colombo of Mendoza, Argentina has temporarily closed the Christ at Prayer Monastery in the town of Tupungato, after two of the community's founding monks were arrested on sexual abuse charges.

"Without pre-judging the guilt of these priests, which is being evaluated by the canonical and state criminal justice system, it becomes necessary for us, right now, to consider the way to continue this experience of religious life in this context," the archbishop said in a statement.

On December 27, a police delegation entered the monastery and arrested Fr. Diego Roque and Fr. Oscar Portillo, two priests from Buenos Aires who have led the monastery since 1996.

The priests are accused of sexual abuse, including abuse of a minor, and abuse of authority between 2009 and 2015. They allegedly abused a man who tried to enter the monastery.

Both priests maintain their innocence. They will remain in custody while the facts of the case are being determined.

In his statement, Archbishop Colombo said that the monastery was left with only four brothers and without their authorities. As a result, he is closing the monastery until further notice.

"The youngest brothers, who very recently entered will return to their family homes and will continue to be spiritually accompanied in their vocational search," the archbishop said.

The two older members, "one professed and the other a novice, already a priest, will from now on live in a parish community to be designated and will be able to continue discerning their vocational call in a climate of spiritual recollection."

As for the administration and management of the monastery, Archbishop Colombo said that it will be the direct responsibility of the Archdiocese of Mendoza in the person of Fr. Aldo Vallone, who will serve as Diocesan Moderator of the Christ at Prayer Monastery.

"Sharing the pain that these events cause us, I ask you to accompany us with your prayers," the archbishop said. "I know of many people who love the Monastery…I ask them to try to understand the unprecedented situation this poses and the indispensable prudential action which is expected of the Church in cases like these."

Colombo asked for prayers for all those who have suffered abuse. He and called on Our Lady of the Rosary to accompany the community. 

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