Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has accused a Vatican cardinal of causing him “serious harm” in a bitter war of words over a controversial open letter regarding the coronavirus crisis.
In a statement published May 8, the archbishop criticized Cardinal Robert Sarah’s decision to distance himself from the letter, titled “Appeal for the Church and the World,” which argues that the coronavirus pandemic has been exploited in order to create a one-world government.
The statement details Vigano’s account of his interactions with Sarah beginning May 4. Viganò claims that on the evening of May 7, the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments asked him to remove him from the list of signatories to the letter, which had by that time already been published.
“With surprise and deep regret,” he wrote, “I then learned that His Eminence had used his Twitter account, without giving me any notice, to make statements that cause serious harm to the truth and to my person.”
Viganò was referring to a series of three May 7 tweets from Sarah, which said: “A Cardinal Prefect, member of the Roman Curia has to observe a certain restriction on political matters. He shouldn’t sign petitions in such aereas [sic].”
“Therefore this morning I explicitely [sic] asked the authors of the petition titled ‘For the Church and for the world’ not to mention my name.”
“From a personal point of view, I may share some questions or preoccupations raised regarding restrictions on fundamental freedom but I didn’t sign that petition,” Sarah added.
Viganò’s statement continued: “I am very sorry that this matter, which is due to human weakness, and for which I bear no resentment towards the person who caused it, has distracted our attention from what must seriously concern us at this dramatic moment.”
After Viganò issued his rebuke, Sarah tweeted May 8: “I will not speak to this petition, which today seems to occupy a lot of people. I leave to their conscience those who want to exploit it in one way or another. I decided not to sign this text. I fully accept my choice.”
In his statement, Viganò said he had chosen to publicize his private conversations with Sarah because he had a duty to tell the truth, and “also for the sake of fraternal correction.”
Vigano said Sarah had initially told him: “Yes, I agree to put my name to it, because this is a fight we must engage in together, not only for the Catholic Church but for all mankind.”
He confirmed that Sarah’s signature has now been removed from the open letter.
Vigano, a former papal nuncio made headlines in August 2018, for a letter that alleged Vatican officials had ignored warnings about the sexual abuse of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Since that time, Vigano has released numerous letters expressing his viewpoints on matters in the Church, which include criticisms of Pope Francis and other curial officials.
The appeal argued that as a result of the pandemic centuries of Christian civilization could be “erased under the pretext of a virus” and an “odious technological tyranny” established in its place.
It said: “We have reason to believe, on the basis of official data on the incidence of the epidemic as related to the number of deaths, that there are powers interested in creating panic among the world’s population with the sole aim of permanently imposing unacceptable forms of restriction on freedoms, of controlling people and of tracking their movements. The imposition of these illiberal measures is a disturbing prelude to the realization of a World Government beyond all control.”
Several bishops and cardinals are alleged to have signed the letter. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas told CNA May 7 that he had signed it.
A press release on the appeal’s website May 8 claimed that Robert Kennedy Jr, son of the slain US. Presidential candidate Sen. Robert Kennedy, had signed the letter.
To date, nearly 4 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 272,000 have died.