Pope's envoy for Legion ends mandate

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Associated Press

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 25 at 12:07 PM

ROME (AP) — The pope's envoy running the troubled Legion of Christ ended his three-year reform effort Tuesday, declaring the order "cured and cleaned" but acknowledging it bears the guilt of its pedophile founder and those who delayed admitting his crimes.

Cardinal Velasio De Paolis celebrated his final Mass as papal delegate on Tuesday and was sent off with a round of applause from a congregation eager to take back the autonomy that was wrested away from it by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

"The Legionaries are reconciled with themselves, with their history, the world and the church," De Paolis said.

Benedict intervened after a Vatican investigation determined that the Legion had been infected by the influence of its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, who sexually abused his seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a cult-like system of power based on silence, deceit and obedience.

The Legion scandal is one of the most egregious cases of how the Vatican put the interests of the church ahead of sex abuse victims because Maciel was held in such high esteem by Pope John Paul II and Vatican cardinals, despite decades of well-founded reports that he was a pedophile and fraud.

De Paolis was named in 2010 to oversee a process of purification of the order that culminated with a 2-month-long general assembly that ended Tuesday, during which a new governing council was elected and new constitutions approved.

Pope Francis must now decide whether to sign the new document.

The Vatican intervened in the election itself, naming the No. 2 Legion director and one of the general counselors who will guide the order for the next six years. The Vatican said it did so to encourage trust in the new leadership "from those who might have doubted the results of a completely autonomous election."

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