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Zenit’s six editors resign over conflict with Legionaries

Zenit publishes news in seven languages

The six editors of the Catholic news agency Zenit have resigned, saying the agency has become too closely identified with the Legionaries of Christ.

A statement issued in French, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese and Arabic said: “The initial vision of Zenit was never to make it a service of a particular congregation, but rather of the universal church. This has been the spirit with which we have worked throughout the years, and the spirit we could not betray.”

Their departure follows the resignation in September of Zenit’s director, Jesus Colina. Mr Colina, who founded Zenit in 1997 and helped build it into an agency with about 450,000 email subscribers, said he was forced out because he resisted pressures to identify the agency and its work more closely with the Legionaries order.

At that time, he said there had been a loss of mutual trust and transparency in the agency’s relationship with the Legionaries.

In their statement, the six editors cited “years of fruitful collaboration” between Zenit and the Legionaries of Christ, but said they disagreed with the order’s decision to “underline the institutional dependence of the agency on the Legion”.

The statement said that, from Zenit’s inception, the Legionaries of Christ had acted as “spiritual advisers” to the agency “to ensure fidelity to the magisterium”. For the past 14 years, it said, the agency had worked independently of the religious order.

Mr Colina told the American Catholic News Service that the Legionaries had not financed Zenit during that period, but did control the board that oversees the agency.

A spokesman for the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Andreas Schoggl, said the order had “always been involved with Zenit” in strategic decisions. At the same time, he said, Zenit’s journalists operated with “editorial independence”.

Fr Schoggl said the decision to ask for Colina’s resignation was not part of a policy change or a change in Zenit’s editorial line. But he said it provided an opportunity to offer a more transparent explanation about the involvement of the Legionaries of Christ with Zenit.

“We see a need to do so, because the stress on journalistic independence (which is still the case) might have induced people to think that Zenit was just a private initiative of Catholic journalists,” Fr Schoggl said.

As for the departing editors, Fr Schoggl said the Legionaries were grateful for their collaboration with Zenit in the past and wished them the best in their future endeavours.

Zenit’s executive director, Alberto Ramirez, who is guiding the transition process, has announced that the Italian journalist Antonio Gaspari will be Zenit’s new editorial coordinator.