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Peruvian-based movement distances itself from founder accused of abuse

The book 'Half Monks, Half Soldiers' stands for sale at a bookstore in Lima, Peru, (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

A Peruvian-based Catholic movement has publicly distanced itself from its founder and asked for Vatican intervention in the wake of accusations of sexual, psychological and physical abuse of members.

Sodalitium Christianae Vitae asked forgiveness from the victims, those who had denounced the alleged abuse and were ignored, members of the organisation and others associated with it.

Alessandro Moroni Llabres, the organisation’s superior general, said: “We consider Luis Fernando Figari guilty of the abuses of which he is accused and declare him persona non grata for our organisation, which totally deplores and condemns his behaviour,”

He said Sodalitium had asked the Vatican to order Figari’s “immediate separation from our community and end his unsustainable spiritual retreat in our facilities.”

Figari resigned as head of the movement in 2010 and has been living in a Sodalitium house in Rome, although immigration records show that he visited Peru regularly through late last year.

The statement came slightly more than five months after two Peruvian journalists, Pedro Salinas and Paola Ugaz, published the book Mitad Monjes, Mitad Soldados (Half Monks, Half Soldiers), which made detailed allegations of abuse by Figari and other Sodalitium leaders. Salinas is a former member of the movement.

Moroni said: “The recent months have been very difficult for the Sodalitium family because they have brought us face to face with an unfortunate past that returned to the present like an earthquake”. He added that Sodalitium is cooperating with investigations by the Vatican and Peruvian prosecutors.

He also announced “the immediate start of an integral reform of our organisation,” adding that Sodalitium had asked Pope Francis to send a Vatican representative to aid in the effort.

Leaders of the movement “acknowledge the sin of not having reacted in a firm and timely manner” to the accusations, “and we are willing to assume whatever penance is necessary to obtain the forgiveness of God, the church, our great family and society as a whole”.

The book that triggered the shakeup in Sodalitium recounted Salinas’s experience and included interviews with 30 other former members, some of whom were minors when they joined.

Some said spiritual directors had ordered them to undress and then touched them, and there were several accounts of rape. Among those accused were Figari and German Doig, the movement’s deceased former vicar general.