Pope Francis addresses the faithful at his Wednesday general audience on Feb. 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

ACI Prensa Staff, Mar 1, 2024 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

The Archdiocese of Toledo, Spain, has demanded that two priests apologize for comments they made “that harm the communion of the Church and scandalize the people of God.” 

The priests had asked the viewers of their YouTube program to pray that Pope Francis “can go to heaven as soon as possible.”

In a statement posted on its website, the archdiocese expressed its “profound rejection of any manifestation of disaffection toward the person and ministry of the Holy Father.”

The Archdiocese of Toledo also stated that it was “not responsible at all for the statements made” by the priests on the YouTube channel “La Sacristía de la Vendée” (“The Sacristy of the Vendée”), where the controversial comments were made.

The Vendée is a region on the country’s west coast that resisted the French Revolution of 1789–1799. Most of its priests refused to take the oath affirming the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which effectively subordinated the French Catholic Church to the revolutionary government. A bloody civil war ensued, which the Vendeans lost.

The statement of the Archdiocese of Toledo, the primatial see of Spain, stressed that the priests’ remarks “do not in any way [speak for] this particular Church. We reiterate and reaffirm the calls for effective and affective communion with the Successor of Peter that both the archbishop and his auxiliary bishop have made on various occasions.”

The statement noted that “other corrective measures are not excluded with respect to those who are called to be ministers of Christ at the service of the unity and evangelical life in the Church, avoiding any conduct that is contrary to their state.”

“We appreciate the work and dedication that has always distinguished the diocesan presbytery to promote communion and affection for the Successor of Peter with the holy people of God on their journey in Toledo,” the statement concluded.

What is ‘La Sacristía de la Vendée’?

“La Sacristía de la Vendée” is a YouTube channel that once a week broadcasts, among other content, a “counterrevolutionary gathering of priests” in which several priests from different dioceses participate.

The priests who usually take part are Father Gabriel Calvo Zarraute, Father Francisco José Delgado, and Father Rodrigo Menéndez Piñar, all from the Archdiocese of Toledo in Spain; Father Juan Manuel Góngora from the Diocese of Almería, Spain; Father Roylan Recio from the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Father Francisco Torres from the Diocese of Plasencia, Spain.

The words that provoked the public reaction of the Archdiocese of Toledo were spoken at the beginning of the Feb. 22 broadcast of the program, coinciding with the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

In that presentation, Delgado referenced the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, stating that this was a day “to pray for the Petrine office of the Successor of Peter.” Góngora, in his initial greeting, encouraged on the occasion of that feast that viewers be “united in truth and fidelity to the Holy Father and praying for him, for his person and intentions.”

In his presentation, Calvo added: “I also pray a lot for the pope, so that he can go to heaven as soon as possible,” to which Delgado added: “It’s one of the things you can pray for anyone.”

Next, Father Charles Murr, an American priest invited to the video gathering, was introduced and said that he joined with “Father Gabriel Calvo’s prayers for the Holy Father,” to which Calvo replied: “There are many of us with that intention.” It was then that Delgado added: “Well, perhaps we’ll be praying harder.”

Before each episode, the broadcast explicitly states that “the participants in this program submit in everything to the judgment of the ecclesiastical authority” and express “their total adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

There is also a disclaimer: “The opinions expressed in this program are the exclusive responsibility of those who make them and do not necessarily represent the [position] of ‘La Sacristía de la Vendée.’”

Priests apologize for ‘comment in bad taste’

On Feb. 28, “La Sacristía de la Vendée” posted a statement on X in which its members said that “we’re sorry for the unfortunate comment said in jest about ‘praying for the pope to go to heaven as soon as possible.’ It was a comment in bad taste and although it does not express the wish for the pope to die, as some media have maliciously spread about, we understand that it can be understood that way.”

In their statement they expressed their “adherence to Pope Francis, in the same terms in which it was clearly expressed in the program of last Feb. 15. We reject attacks against the pope and the unity of the Church and those who deny the legitimacy of the pope’s ministry.”

At the same time, the statement’s signatories pointedly refused to apologize “to those who pharisaically take advantage of our mistake to attack our entire message.”

In conclusion, the priests regretted “the problems caused to our respective dioceses due to the coordinated protests that came in due to our actions. It would not be a bad thing for those who appreciate our work to express, if they see fit, their support. Long live Christ the King!”

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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