29 Feb, 2024 @ 13:20
1 min read

Archbishop in Spain forced to intervene after priests use YouTube to pray for Pope Francis’s early death

THE archbishop of Toledo has been forced to intervene and reject statements made by a group of priests from his diocese, after they joked during a YouTube broadcast that they were praying for Pope Francis ‘to get to heaven as soon as possible’. 

“This in no way represents the line of communication of this particular Church,” said Archbishop Francisco Cerro Chaves in a statement published on the episcopal website. “We reiterate and ratify calls for effective and affective communion with the successor of Peter,” he added, in reference to the current pope.

The controversy was sparked by the YouTube chat among a group of priests on February 22. 

As they began the online broadcast, they referred to the delicate state of health of Pope Francis, who has recently been unwell with cold symptoms and the flu.

Priests pray for Pope death
Credit YouTube

One of the priests from Toledo, Gabriel Calvo Zarraute, joked during the broadcast that he was ‘praying a great deal for the pope so that he can get to heaven as soon as possible’.

The other clerics laughed and then chimed in with their own comments.

“I also join Father Gabriel’s prayers for the Holy Father,” said American priest Charles Murr.

“Many of us have that intention!” added Calvo Zarraute. 

“Well let’s prayer even harder,” said Father Francisco J. Delgado. 

After the controversy caused by the jokes, as well as the statement from the archbishop, the YouTube channel used by the priests – which is called La Sacristia de Vedee (The Vedee Vestry) – issued a statement saying that the comments were ‘a joke’.

The priests added that they were not ‘expressing wishes for the death of the pope, as some media outlets have maliciously claimed’.

They stressed their ‘adhesion to Pope Francis’ and rejected any attacks against him. 

“We regret the problems caused to our respective bishoprics by the arrival of coordinated protests against our actions,” the statement continued, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais. “It would not be a bad thing if those who are grateful for our work were to express their support, if they see fit. Long live Christ the King!”

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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