Thousands of Catholics baptized into the faith by Reverend Andres Arango, the former priest of St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix, Arizona, will now have to be baptized again after it was discovered that Arango had used a incorrect formula for performing the sacrament. .
Arango, who voluntarily resigned from the church earlier this month, also served in parishes in Brazil and San Diego, Calif., during a career spanning more than 20 years. The New York Times reported. Officials investigating the invalid baptism formula believe that thousands of people have been incorrectly baptized by Arango over the years.
In the Catholic Church, people are baptized once, as infants, and not rebaptized as adults. However, children, adolescents and adults who convert to Catholicism also receive baptism, often practiced during Easter vigils (see examples here and here).
Prof. Arango’s formula for baptism became a cause for concern last year when he was heard saying at a ceremony: ‘We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ .
According to the Vatican, during baptisms, priests are supposed to say the words “I baptizeinstead of “We baptize” for the baptism to be valid.
Thomas J. Olmsted, the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, explained in a recent statement published on the church’s website why it was unacceptable for Arango to say “We are baptizing”.
“It is with sincere pastoral concern that I inform the faithful that the baptisms performed by the Reverend Andres Arango, priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, are invalid. This decision was made after careful study by diocesan officials and in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome,” Olmsted said.
“Specifically, it was reported to me that Fr. Andres used the formula: “WE baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The key phrase in question is the use of “We baptize” instead of “I baptize,” he explained. “The problem with using ‘We’ is that it is not the community that baptizes a person, rather it is Christ, and He alone, who presides over all the sacraments, and therefore it is Christ Jesus who baptizes.”
Olmsted said he did not believe Arango’s mistake was intentional and asked congregants who had been baptized by him with the incorrect formula to contact the church so they could help.
“I do not believe that Fr. Andres intended to harm the faithful or to deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments. On behalf of our local Church, I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption of the sacramental life of a number of the faithful,” Olmsted added. “This is why I am committed to taking all necessary measures to remedy the situation for everyone affected. If you think your own baptismal reception can be related to the Father. Ministry of Andres Arango, please call your parish for more information on how to proceed. I also encourage you to visit, dphx.org/valid-baptism for more information.”
In a statement also shared by the church, Arango said he was saddened to learn that he had performed invalid baptisms throughout his ministry by regularly using an incorrect formula.
“I deeply regret my mistake and how it affected many people in your parish and elsewhere. With the help of the Holy Spirit and in communion with the Diocese of Phoenix, I will devote my energy and full-time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected,” he said. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for giving me the opportunity to serve your community. You have all enriched my life beyond measure. It has been a blessing and an honor to have served and worked alongside people whom I consider my dear friends and family.
In one message published in their newsletter on January 30, the community of St. Gregory’s Catholic Church in Phoenix also thanked Arango for his service.
“We would like to thank you for your dedication to your vocation, but also for your dedication to the community. You have contributed to giving a new face to Saint Gregory. During your stay here, you have shared meals, given spiritual counsel, raised our parish, taken our young people twice to World Youth Days, opened up opportunities for several trips to the Holy Land; while being very caring about our community and our training,” the church said. “The impact you have had on our students, parishioners and staff will forever be in our hearts.”