Pope Francis Retires the Most Traditional Friendly Diocesan Bishop of Italy at 70
Pope Francis and Dom Zappella, Caritas Director for the Diocese of Albenga-Imperia
(Rome) Bishops who are too traditionally inclined, or promote it in their dioceses, or who allow the celebration of the traditional form of the Roman Rite to an extent that it goes beyond a niche, don't have it easy under Pope Francis.
This is already being felt by Bishop Mario Oliveri of Albenga-Imperia on the Italian Riviera. Despite the above-average earnings in his diocese, he was overthrown by Pope Francis in January 2015. The Pope appointed the Bishop of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, Msgr. Guglielmo Borghetti, as the Coadjutor Bishop of Albenga-Imperia, although Bishop Oliveri is in good health and was only 70 years old.
The coadjutor received with immediate effect, all authority as diocesan bishop. Bishop Oliveri has since been only "decorative" actually.
Last April, Pope Francis summoned bishop and coadjutor separately and on the expressway to Rome. It was reported by Savona News that the Pope demanded Bishop Oliveri's resignation. He is to retire in August.
This dismissal was not made in the context of the new Motu Proprio As a Loving Mother, which will come into force on 5 September.
The media knows of the alleged reasons for the reshuffle of the top diocesan official. Yet these reasons are to be regarded with caution. Named are problems with two priests of the diocese. Don Francesco Zappella was implicated in cases of sexual abuse, and Don Angelo Chizzolini was "xenophobic". So it is maintained by some media, and both priests were included in media campaigns last year.
The allegations have yet to be clarified, and thus are not suited for the preventive impeachment of a bishop, but initially, only for an inadmissible prejudice. Also therefore, they are not be suitable because even the coadjutor would then have to resign, who has been responsible for the two priests for over a year, and the specific cases already concern his tenure.
At the moment only it is only clear that with the help of the media, there is a thick fog of suspicion and accusations have been spread, and the church has been indicted by the public. Whoever hurls dirt from a safe cover, reckons that something has gotten stuck.
Bishop Oliveri seems to be the pawn sacrificed to allow the coadjutor to a "fresh start". It is more likely that Bishop Oliveri is disturbing as a traditional shepherd and has to be removed gingerly in a climate disposed to tradition.
The "raping" priest
The sudden urgency was brought about because in Uruguay a case against Don Zappella was initiated for sexual abuse. The priest worked until 2004 in Uruguay in the missions. Among other things, he built an orphanage and a home for maladjusted children and adolescents. The incident for which he has been accused allegedly occurred at the Mission in 2005.
There is currently a wave of scandal in Uruguay rolling across the Church. Several priests have been accused of the sexual abuse of minors. How much of it is true, must first be cleared up. The damage to the Church has already been accomplished by the media's prejudice. Here also the name Zappellas is mentioned, which brings the situation to the level of an international event, about which Pope Francis has had to intervene personally.
Don Zappella himself went public and had addressed the allegations himself. He is said to have then "raped" a 29-year old Brazilian. Don Zappella says it's the tit for tat response, because he had referred the man to a home in Albenga and was sent back to Brazil after he had molested a daughter of the hostess. He himself has no longer been engaged in the mission since 2004, but has visited his mission station since then only once a year.
An Italian victims' association had paid for the Brazilian come at society cost to Italy in order to be heard by the public prosecutor in an appeal for an indictment against Don Zappella in 2015. Previously, the victims' association had dragged the priest in this matter before the media. The investigation has been archived at the end of 2015 because of the statute of limitations. Then the association presented a new case in the spring, but this time a mentally unstable young man Don Zappella is supposed to have molested at a time which was within the statute of limitations.
The victims' association is working together with a priest of the diocese in the matter. Therein, Don Zappella sees the reason for the "campaign" against him: This priest is "envious" of him that Coadjutor Bishop Borghetti has appointed him as the new director of Caritas in the Diocese.
The "xenophobic" priest
Don Angelo Chizzolini for his part, has come into the headlines as an alleged "anti-immigrant priest." In a broadcast of an Italian private television channel, he was presented as a "xenophobe". He had refused the reception of asylum seekers in his rectory and also refused to bless a dead Muslim. The latter was the initial spark for the negative media attention for the priest.
A gas cylinder exploded in a disaster in the spring of 2015 in a residential building. Several people were killed, including a Muslim. A Requiem and funeral took place in the parish. Relying on the canon law, the parish priest, Don Chizzolini made a distinction between the baptized Catholics and the Muslim. For some, who showed utterly no understanding, were outraged and appeared in the local press. From there the case reached the national press where the blessing that was not granted was hyped into an "unprecedented scandal" as part of the Refugee-Welcome-Hype.
Given this history, it was not difficult to brand the same priest in autumn 2015 as a "xenophobe" because he had refused to accommodate refugees in his rectory. It's an accusation that the person concerned rejected: "There is simply no room in the rectory." [Does Pope Francis have to accommodate refugees on his floor in the Santa Marta?]
The brother of the Muslim who died had even threatened the priest and accused him of being "part of the hate." The priest filed a police complaint against anonymous leaflets with insulting insulting slogans on them. The investigations are still underway.
Don Chizzolini is one of those priests of the diocese who celebrate in both forms of the Roman Rite.
Shortly after the Coadjutor Bishop returned from his visit to Pope Francis, Don Chizzolini had to give up the three parishes that he supervised. About a new task, "he would have to decide in quiet reflection," said the coadjutor. Don Chizzolini is imposed to silence on the matter. This should put the matter to rest, is what is said at the Diocese.
Even Bishop Oliveri now appears to have resign in the wake of a "calming action" personally chosen by the Pope, although he is not personally responsible in either of the cases. "What a coincidence that this is precisely the most traditional friendly diocesan bishop of Italy," so Messa in Latino .