Legionaries to close novitiate over lack of vocations

Wed, Jul 20, 2011, 01:00

THE CONTROVERSIAL Legionaries of Christ religious congregation is to close its novitiate in Dublin due to falling vocations.

Founded 70 years ago in Mexico by the disgraced Fr Marcial Maciel, the legionaries have been in Ireland since 1960.

Its novitiate has been on Leopardstown Road in Dublin’s Foxrock since 1968. The congregation is present in over 22 countries.

Fr Maciel, a close friend of the late Pope John Paul II, was removed from ministry by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 after years of allegations he had abused seminarians. He died in 2008 aged 87.

In 2009, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of the congregation. On May 1st, 2010, the Vatican issued a statement saying Fr Maciel lived a life “deprived of scruple and authentic religious sentiment”.

It said “the majority of the legionaries were unaware of this life, above all because of the network of relations created by Fr Maciel who was very clever in creating alibis for himself, inspiring the confidence, trust and silence of those around him whilst at the same time reinforcing his role as charismatic founder”.

The statement added that Fr Maciel created a “defence mechanism” that, for a long time, made him “untouchable”.

In a letter last Friday “to the Legionaries of Christ and the consecrated members of Regnum Christi in the western and central European”, area director general Fr Alvaro Corcuera wrote “the legion will not be able to assign novices to the Dublin novitiate after September of this year.

“This novitiate will be closed and the brothers there will be transferred to other novitiates.”

He continued, “the reasons which have brought about this painful decision are the scarcity of Irish vocations in recent decades, combined with the current difficulty of maintaining the novitiate with vocations from other countries, as well as the consolidation of efforts and resources that we are implementing throughout the world”.

Legionaries will continue to reside at Leopardstown, however, and their Dublin Oak and Woodlands academies, the Clonlost retreat centre and the Faith and Family Centre in Blackrock will stay open.

Fr Anthony Bannon has been named superior of the Dublin community with effect from Monday of this week, and the director is Fr Sergio Rosiles.