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Priest’s use of a single wrong word invalidates baptisms

25 February 2022


Fr Andres Arango, pictured in May 2020

Fr Andres Arango, pictured in May 2020

THOUSANDS of baptisms have been invalidated by a Roman Catholic priest’s use of a single wrong word in services.

Fr Andres Arango has resigned from the Roman Catholic St Gregory’s, Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States, after using the phrase “We baptise you” instead of “I baptise you” for years.

It is believed that he has used the wrong phrase since the beginning of his ministry in the US, 20 years ago, until last June, when it was discovered by diocesan officials.

Born in Brazil, he was ordained priest in 1995 before serving at a church in California, then at three church in Phoenix.

An invalid baptism is regarded, in and beyond the Roman Catholic Church, as invalidating lesser sacraments subsequently received, particularly marriage, confirmation, and holy orders.

The Bishop of Phoenix, the Most Revd Thomas Olmsted, said in a letter to the diocese: “I do not believe Fr. Andres had any intentions to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments. On behalf of our local Church, I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of a number of the faithful. This is why I pledge to take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted.”

He explained the reason behind the invalidation, saying: “The key phrase in question is the use of ‘We baptise’ in place of ‘I baptise’. The issue with using ‘We’ is that it is not the community that baptises a person, rather, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides at all of the sacraments, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptises.

“The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently issued a doctrinal note alerting the Church throughout the world that baptisms were not valid in which the formula was changed to say ‘We baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. In making this clarification, the Congregation referred to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which reminded us that no one, ‘even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority’.”

Those who have received other sacraments may need to repeat some or all of them after a valid baptism, the diocese has warned worshippers.

Fr Arango said in a statement: “It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula. I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere. With the help of the Holy Spirit and in communion with the Diocese of Phoenix I will dedicate my energy and full time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected.”

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