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Pope's envoy for Legion ends mandate

Tuesday - 2/25/2014, 5:04pm  ET

Prelates attend a mass celebrated by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis in the Legion of Christ main headquarters, the Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, in Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Cardinal De Paolis celebrated his final Mass as papal delegate on Tuesday and was sent off with a round of applause from a congregation eager to take back the autonomy that was wrested away from it by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. Benedict intervened after a Vatican investigation determined that the Legion had been infected by the influence of its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, who sexually abused his seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a cult-like system of power based on silence, deceit and obedience. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

NICOLE WINFIELD
Associated Press

ROME (AP) -- The pope's envoy running the troubled Legion of Christ ended his three-year reform effort Tuesday, declaring the order "cured and cleaned" but acknowledging it bears the guilt of its pedophile founder and the superiors who delayed admitting his crimes.

Cardinal Velasio De Paolis celebrated his final Mass as papal delegate Tuesday and left to a round of applause from a congregation eager to regain the autonomy that Pope Benedict XVI wrested away in 2010.

"The Legionaries are reconciled with themselves, with their history, the world and the church," De Paolis said.

Benedict intervened after a Vatican investigation determined the Legion had been infected by its founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, who sexually abused his seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a cult-like system of power based on silence, deceit and obedience.

De Paolis was named to oversee a process of purification that concluded with a 2-month-long general assembly that ended Tuesday. It elected a new governing council and approved new constitutions.

Pope Francis must now decide whether to sign the new document. The Vatican intervened in the election itself, naming the No. 2 Legion director and one of the general counselors.

Dozens of priests and hundreds of seminarians have left the order in recent years, horrified by the revelations about Maciel or disillusioned over the reform process.

De Paolis said the Legion itself could be considered a "victim" of Maciel's crimes, even though some superiors bore responsibility "in particular for the delays in which they operated."

He said the general assembly asks forgiveness from Maciel's victims, but also "realizes that the Legionaries are called to assume the consequences of these guilts on themselves."

But he said God has cured the Legion through the purification process leaving it with a hopeful future.

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