Project devised by Father Marko Rupnik for the chapel of the Francisco de Vitoria University outside Madrid, Spain. / Credit: UFV

ACI Prensa Staff, Jan 17, 2024 / 19:45 pm (CNA).

Spain’s Francisco de Vitoria University (UFV) has canceled its planned collaboration with former Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik, who was initially presented as the driving force behind a new campus chapel project, as first reported by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

Located in the town of Pozuelo de Alarcón near Madrid, the institution with ties to the Legionaries of Christ began construction on a new chapel in September 2022, when the archbishop emeritus of Madrid, Cardinal Carlos Osoro, blessed the first stone.

The original project involved close collaboration with Rupnik. At the time, the university stated that it was “the first work of architecture in which Rupnik has been involved in the entire process of creating the project, starting with the temple’s theological and symbolic foundations.”

However, just three months after work began, the university decided to “pause the work related to the iconographic program,” which was shared with the university community through an internal statement to which ACI Prensa had access. Rector Daniel Sada explained in the statement that this change was made “in light of published information” about sexual abuse committed by Rupnik.

At the time of the work stoppage, the iconographic program of the project “was in the conception and development phase” and it was planned to feature Rupnik’s well-known mosaics both inside and outside the building.

However, the final decision on the art and iconographic elements that will be part of the building is that “the chapel will be completed over time” in such a way that “the perimeter walls, both interior and exterior, are blank slates that at the moment are being designed in coordination with the architectural language of the campus and are intended to be covered with art that can serve as a call to the entire community to approach, take delight in, and discover,” the UFV told ACI Prensa.

The university anticipates that the apse will be covered “with gold leaf according to a design by the artist Alberto Guerrero Gil with the collaboration of students and professors of the fine arts department, along with its director, Pablo López Raso.”

The new UFV chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary under her title “Sedes Sapientiae” (“Seat of Wisdom”), i.e., “the throne and first formator of Jesus Christ,” because the UFV wants to be configured “as a house of wisdom, as a place or a community in which the wisdom accumulated by the various generations is transmitted, assimilated, and developed.”

The plan for the building was developed by architects Emilio Delgado, Felipe Samarán, and Antonio Álvarez Cienfuegos and is designed so that the chapel has a seating capacity of 500. Next to the chapel there is a center for formation, meetings, or conferences with capacity for another 500 people.

The theological inspiration for the space is based on the fact that it is a university chapel. Thus, several elements have been incorporated into the design: two large curved arches, “one larger and whiter that welcomes the community of faithful” and another “taller and golden that refers to the physical presence of God in history through his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Additionally, seven columns of wisdom stand out as an allegory of God’s perfect knowledge and “the human aspiration to seek the truth and build on it” and representations of the parables of the kingdom, in line with the charism of the Legionaries of Christ.

Elliptical in plan, its central dome is 39 feet high, while the one above the sanctuary rises to 49 feet. The tabernacle faces east.

According to the information provided by the UFV, the arrangement of the pews “highlights the central character of the community assembly of the church around the altar” over which a crucifix is suspended. Next to the altar, a life-size pregnant Virgin Mary has been temporarily placed, which will be replaced by another statue representing the Virgin “attending to a young child Jesus on her lap writing in a notebook.”

Under the altar, relics of two martyrs are kept, one Spanish and the other Mexican, St. Pedro Poveda and St. José Sánchez del Río. Poveda was the founder of the Teresian Institution and was murdered out of hatred for the faith during the religious persecution of the 1930s in Spain. Sánchez del Río was a 14-year-old boy stabbed to death out of hatred for the faith during the 1928 Cristero War.

The Rupnik case

Father Marko Rupnik has been renowned worldwide for his artistic skills and his characteristic style in making mosaics, which are present in such notable places as the Vatican itself, Lourdes in France, and the headquarters of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. The UFV itself awarded Rupnik an honorary doctorate in 2013.

Since 2018, several investigations have been conducted into alleged sexual and theological abuse committed by Rupnik, founder of the Loyola Community of Slovenia in the 1980s, with which he broke ties in 1993.

In June 2019, the Jesuits announced that they were imposing a series of unspecified restrictions on the priest and the following month the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith asked the order to begin an investigation.

In May 2020, it was reported that Rupnik had incurred automatic excommunication for absolving in confession a woman accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment, but Vatican authorities shortly thereafter lifted the penalty.

The following year, the Vatican asked the Society of Jesus to investigate Rupnik regarding accusations relating to the Loyola Community. In January 2022 it was concluded that there was a case that deserved to be heard in a criminal proceeding, but in October of that year the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that the case was beyond the statute of limitations.

In February 2023, the Jesuits announced new restrictions following new complaints from 15 women against him. On June 15 of that year, Rupnik was expelled from the Jesuits “for disobedience” and, in August, he was incardinated in the Diocese of Koper in Slovenia. In December, the Loyola Community was dissolved.

Pope Francis asked the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in September 2023 to review the case of the former Jesuit priest and decided to lift the statute of limitations to allow a trial to take place.

The Holy Father made the decision after the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors informed him of the serious problems in the way the priest’s case was handled and the lack of attention to the victims.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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