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Pope Francis meets close collaborator of Rupnik

Pope Francis met Maria Campatelli, director of the Aletti Center, at the Vatican on Sept. 15, 2023. The Aletti Center was founded in Rome by the former Jesuit priest Father Marko Rupnik. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 15, 2023 / 07:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis had a private meeting on Friday with the theologian Maria Campatelli, a close collaborator of Father Marko Rupnik, who was dismissed from the Jesuits in June for failing to obey the directions of his superiors.

Campatelli, 61, has been the director of the Aletti Center — an art and theology school founded by Rupnik in Rome — since 2020.

In June, Campatelli published a letter defending Rupnik against “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations” and claiming the Jesuits had withheld documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

The Vatican did not provide any information on the meeting between Pope Francis and Campatelli other than to state it had taken place.

The Jesuits dismissed Rupnik on June 9 after the priest and artist had been accused of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience, spanning more than three decades.

Father Johan Verschueren, SJ, Rupnik’s former superior, wrote an open letter posted to the Jesuit website on June 24 stating that Rupnik was officially no longer a Jesuit after the 30-day window to appeal the decision had closed.

Campatelli defended Rupnik in a letter posted to the Aletti Center website June 17, two days after the public announcement of the priest’s expulsion from the Society of Jesus.

The theologian said Rupnik had in January requested to leave the Jesuits after losing trust in his superiors for favoring “a media campaign based on defamatory and unproven accusations (which exposed the person of Fr. Rupnik and the Aletti Center to forms of lynching).”

She also accused the Jesuit order of withholding information from the media, including documents “which would demonstrate a truth different from that which was being published.”

Campatelli went on to say that the Jesuits had asked Rupnik to transfer to a Jesuit community in northern Italy in March. She claimed the transfer request was “purely instrumental” and used as a “presupposition for an act of disobedience.”

She also said other Jesuits who are part of the Aletti Center have put in requests to leave the religious order.

Four Jesuit priests, other than Rupnik, are currently listed on the Aletti Center website as belonging to the leadership team.

In February, the Jesuits said they had opened a new internal procedure against Rupnik after receiving accusations against him spanning from 1985 to 2018. The “highly credible” accusations, they said, included claims of spiritual, psychological, and sexual abuse, and abuse of conscience.

A June statement said the team investigating the accusations delivered its dossier the same month.

Rupnik’s superiors imposed certain restrictions on his ministry at the recommendation of the investigators.

According to media reports in recent months, Rupnik defied these orders and others, such as the direction to remain in central Italy and to not participate in public artistic activities.

Rupnik was also briefly excommunicated in 2019 for absolving in confession an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment.

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