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Lawyer Laura Sgro, left, listens to Gloria Branciani during a press conference in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME (AP) — One of the first women who accused a once-exalted Jesuit artist of spiritual, psychological and sexual abuse went public Wednesday to demand transparency from the Vatican and a full accounting of the hierarchs who covered for him for 30 years.

Gloria Branciani, 59, appeared at a news conference with one of the most prominent Vatican-accredited lawyers in Rome, Laura Sgro, to tell her story in public for the first time. She detailed the abuses of the Rev. Marko Rupnik, including his fondness for three-way sex “in the image of the Trinity” that, if confirmed, would constitute a grave perversion of Catholic doctrine as to be considered false mysticism.

Rupnik’s mosaics decorate churches and basilicas around the world, including at the Catholic shrine in Lourdes, France, the forthcoming cathedral in Aparecida, Brazil, and the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Under pressure as the scandal grew, Francis in October decided to reopen the case.

The Jesuits kicked him out of the order last year after he refused to respond to allegations of spiritual, psychological and sexual abuses by about 20 women, most of whom, like Branciani, were members of a Jesuit-inspired religious community he co-founded in his native Slovenia that has since been suppressed.

The Rupnik scandal has grabbed headlines for more than a year over speculation that he received preferential treatment because of his prominence as a world-famous Jesuit artist and preacher by a Vatican dominated by Jesuits: From Pope Francis to the Jesuits who headed the Vatican office responsible for sex crimes and sacramental crimes that twice let him off the hook.

Under pressure as the scandal grew, Francis in October decided to reopen the case and Branciani is due to soon testify before the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Sgro said that she didn’t know what the possible lines of investigation are since the Dicastery’s proceedings are secret even to victims and their lawyers.

Branciani, who first denounced Rupnik in 1993 and then left the Slovene community, called for the full story of the Rupnik scandal and cover-up to come out in public, including the documentation. She said that she believed that the pope was still in the dark about the details and that even he would be served by the truth.

 

“He (Rupnik) was always protected by everyone, and everything that you could accuse him of was either minimized or denied,” she said. “We hope that our testimony — and for this reason we’re exposing ourselves like this, because we feel protected and supported — will stimulate a greater transparency and a consciousness by everyone, and also maybe the pope who wasn’t really aware of the facts that occurred.”

Rupnik’s former Jesuit superior, the Rev. Johan Verschueren, said that he had no contact for a lawyer for Rupnik. There was no immediate response to an email seeking comment from Rupnik’s Centro Aletti art studio and ecumenical center in Rome. Rupnik hasn't commented publicly since the scandal erupted, though the Centro Aletti has strongly supported him and alleged a media “lynching” against him.

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