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WorldArchbishop of Peru leaves office after filing lawsuits against two journalists over...

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Archbishop of Peru leaves office after filing lawsuits against two journalists over financial corruption

A bishop from Peru who took legal action against two journalists for writing about sexual abuse and financial wrongdoing in his religious group, Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, has quit while the Vatican looks into the matter.

Pope Francis agreed to let Piura Archbishop Jose Eguren step down from his position. He is 67 years old, which is younger than the usual retirement age of 75 for bishops.

The Vatican did not say why Eguren was retiring early in its short announcement, and there was no immediate statement posted on the Piura archdiocesan website.

The Vatican started a thorough investigation into abuse and financial wrongdoing within the Sodalitium organization in Peru, to which Eguren is a part of.

For more than ten years, the Vatican has been paying attention to Sodalitium, a group with branches in South America and the US. In 2017, a study paid for by the group’s new leaders found that its founder, Luis Fernando Figari, sexually abused his recruits and treated them in a very bad way.

The abuses were first made public in 2015 because of the work of Peruvian journalists Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz. Aside from Figari’s own wrongdoings, their reporting also uncovered that a real estate developer associated with Sodalitium allegedly forced peasants off lands in Eguren’s diocese.

In 2018, Eguren took legal action against them because he said they hurt his reputation. He wanted $100,000 and for them to go to jail. He decided to stop the lawsuit for defamation in 2019 because people in the Peruvian church were criticizing him.

Last year, the Vatican sent two of their best investigators to Peru to look into claims of sexual and psychological abuse in the Sodalitium. They also looked into claims of money corruption.

The report’s information has not been shared, but Salinas hinted that Eguren’s removal was connected to the Vatican investigation. This could mean that more action might be taken in the future. Salinas was hurt by Figari and has been working hard to make Sodalitium take responsibility. Ugaz also talked to Francis in 2022.

“This has never happened before and could be a sign that something even bigger is coming: the Sodalitium might be stopped,” Salinas said in a message to The Associated Press.

Figari started the SCV in 1971, which is also called the Sodalitium. It was made for people to join and serve God. There were many Catholic groups that started as a response to the left-leaning liberation theology movement in Latin America in the 1960s.

The victims told the Lima archdiocese about Figari’s bad actions in May 2011. The church said they told the Vatican about the case right away, but they didn’t do anything until Salinas’ book came out in 2015.

Sodalitium previously said it was helping with the Vatican’s investigation. It has said that Figari claims he didn’t do anything wrong, but it thinks the allegations in “Half Monks, Half Soldiers” could be true.

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