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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Friday (July 9) appointed the Vatican’s chief financial auditor, Italian Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, to manage the powerful but scandal-scarred Legionaries of Christ order.
The decision comes after an eight-month investigation of the order founded in 1941 by disgraced Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, who died in 2008.
The 74-year-old De Paolis, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs for the Holy See, will be responsible for reforming the Legionaries’ extensive network of 900 priests and 3,000 seminarians operating in 20 countries.
The order’s affiliated lay movement, Regnum Christi, claims 70,000 lay members in 45 countries.
Controversy around Maciel dates at least as far back as 1997, when nine former Legionaries accused him of sexual abuse decades earlier, while they were studying to become priests.
Maciel was not disciplined during the reign of Pope John Paul II, when the Legion rose to its greatest prominence. But in 2006, under Benedict, the Vatican announced that Maciel had been ordered to lead a “life reserved to prayer and penitence, renouncing all public ministry.”
The Legion continued to honor Maciel in its official literature and to deny the allegations against him until last year. Earlier this year, two Mexican men also stepped forward to claim Maciel was their father.
In April, a Vatican investigation concluded that Maciel had led a “double life” that was “immoral, without scruples or true religious feeling.”
The Legionaries, whose order had been threatened with closure, released a statement Friday welcoming the appointment of De Paolis, promising him “full cooperation.”
— Richard Allen
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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