ROME – Though American bishops appear divided in reaction to the sensational accusation by a former papal ambassador in the U.S. that Pope Francis ignored sexual misconduct warnings about ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, prelates in other parts of the world, especially in Latin cultures, appear to be showing strong support for the pontiff.
Recent statements along those lines have been heard from Portugal, Peru, Spain and the pontiff’s own Argentina.
From Portugal, a defense against “ultra-conservatives”
“It’s a campaign organized by ultra-conservatives to mortally wound the pope,” said Cardinal António dos Santos Marto, of Fatima, Portugal, speaking to Portuguese media Obsevador about the tempest set loose by the Viganò charge.
Made a cardinal by Francis earlier this year, Marto said the pope will come out strengthened from the controversy, adding, however, that “in this moment it’s necessary for the entire Church to manifest her support to the pope.”
Marto predicts that at some point Francis will change tactics, and instead of avoiding giving an answer to the accusation, as he did when speaking to journalists on his way back from Ireland, he will address it head-on, as well as the author of the letter and those behind it.
“Now we’re seeing a lot of denials of what the archbishop says,” Marto said.
“In the first place, the letter was prepared a long time ago with journalists; some of the United States, others of Italy. Specifically, the journalist Marco Tosatti, who confessed to having spent three hours with the archbishop to edit the text, and who said the exact moment of the pope’s trip to Ireland was chosen so that ‘the bomb’ -according to the journalist- had multiplying effects.”
From the pope’s Argentina, “we share your pain”
“[Both] pastors and faithful, we want to show you our fraternal and filial closeness at this moment in which you suffer a ruthless attack in which different and narrow worldly interests come together,” said the statement released by the Argentine bishops on Thursday.
“We share your pains and hopes,” the Argentine prelates said.
The statement was signed by Bishop Oscar Ojea, of San Isidro, president of the local bishops’ conference, and by Bishop Carlos Malfa, of Chascomús, secretary general.
The prelates avoided making any direct reference to Viganò or his 11-page letter. Instead, they said they know Francis can say like St. Paul: “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
The Argentines close their statement asking for the Holy Spirit to fill the pope with “wisdom and strength” so that, as successor of Peter, “he continues confirming us in the faith of the Church.”
From Peru, “closeness”
In a letter addressed to the pope and made public by the Peruvian bishops’ conference, the prelates expressed their “closeness” to Francis amidst “attempts to destabilize the Church and your ministry.”
“We want to bring you our closeness in the certainty that the promise of Jesus always upholds the rock on which He built his Church,” the Peruvians said, emphasizing a quote from the Gospel of St. Matthew: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
In view of what they described as attempts to “destabilize the Church and your ministry,” they proclaimed their faith in “the Risen Christ,” and confirm their “full, fraternal, and episcopal support to your lucid, brave and firm way of conducting the boat of Christ.”
From Spain, “you’re not alone”
On Wednesday, Cardinal Ricardo Blázquez, Archbishop of Valladolid and president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, sent a letter to the pope from the city of Medellin, Colombia, where he was participating in an event msrking the 50th anniversary of the conference of the Latin American bishops (CELAM) in the city.
The letter was partially shared on the website of the Spanish bishops. In it, Blázquez told the pope “you’re not alone, the Church is praying for you as, in at another time, it did for Peter.”
“We ask the Lord that he continues to sustain you in your daily fights for the Gospel, that he give you his peace and the ability to give those who are tired a word of encouragement,” the cardinal wrote.
In the letter, Blázquez also thanked Francis for his “tireless” pastoral work and dedication to the “ministry the Lord has entrusted in you.”
The cardinal recalled that “to proclaim the Gospel with fidelity and freedom, to denounce with courage what God reproves, to humbly request forgiveness for the sins and mistakes of the members of the Church, clergy and laity, manifests itself in occasions in the form of a very heavy cross for you, united in communion with Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd.”