Pope Francis accepts resignation of Peruvian archbishop — By: Catholic News Agency

Pope Francis and Archbishop José Antonio Eguren. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 2, 2024 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop José Antonio Eguren of Piura and Tumbes, Peru.

Eguren, 67, has been in charge of the Archdiocese of Piura and Tumbes since 2006. He presented his resignation eight years before the age limit provided for in the Code of Canon Law. The Vatican has not reported the reason for the resignation.

Eguren and the Sodality case

The archbishop, who has been affiliated with the Sodality of Christian Life (SCV by its Latin acronym), was implicated by the press in a case of land trafficking in Piura following a 2016 report by the Al Jazeera news agency titled “Peru: The Sodalitium Scandal.”

Al Jazeera linked the San Juan Bautista Civil Association (SJB) — which in 2012 had acquired land in Piura — and the SCV with a criminal organization called La Gran Cruz del Norte.

In 2018, a Peruvian court convicted the leaders of the La Gran Cruz del Norte gang for different crimes and, during the trial, the representatives of the SJB association were summoned as witnesses, not as accused.

Although the veracity of the Al Jazeera report was questioned by other journalistic investigations — as detailed in the book “History of a Defamation” — journalist Pedro Salinas used it in an article titled “The Peruvian Juan Barros” in which he involves Eguren with the case of land trafficking and compares him to the Chilean bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up abuses in his country.

Eguren took Salinas to court for aggravated defamation, and the archbishop won the trial in April 2019. A Peruvian court sentenced the journalist to one year of suspended prison and fines, including a payment of approximately $24,000.

However, the archbishop withdrew the complaint against Salinas after the president of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference and the archbishop of Lima, Carlos Castillo, published a statement in which they expressed solidarity with the journalist despite his condemnation.

In July 2023, Pope Francis sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna, assistant secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, along with Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, an official of the same dicastery, to Lima, Peru, to investigate complaints against the SCV for alleged cases of abuse.

During their visit, the Vatican envoys heard from several members of the Sodality, among them Eguren, along with representatives of the San Juan Bautista de Catacaos, Piura, peasant community, which accuses the SCV of illegally appropriating its land.

‘I always strove to serve with filial affection and obedience’

The now-archbishop emeritus of Piura and Tumbes, Eguren issued a statement April 2 in which he thanked God for the opportunity to have served the faithful of the northern archdiocese and the successors of Peter “who trusted in me. I always strove to serve with filial affection and obedience.”

Although he did not give details about the reasons for his resignation, Eguren quoted Pope Benedict XVI and assured that “‘loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, long-suffering decisions, always keeping in mind the good of the Church and not of ourselves.’”

Eguren added that “within my Christian home and my community of the Sodality of Christian Life, I learned that we must always love the Church and make it loved.”

He thanked the faithful for their affection and their support in difficult times such as the pandemic and the natural disasters that affected his archdiocese during the past 18 years and assured that his commitment “to ecclesial service remains unchanged in the face of the new challenges that have arisen for the Church during these times.”

“You will always find in me a pastor who will strive to be faithful to the Lord Jesus and the successor of St. Peter. I ask for your prayers for the new challenges I will have from now on.”

Finally, he asked the Catholic community to provide its support to Bishop Guillermo Elías Millares, who has been appointed apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Piura.

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