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Thousands may need baptism renewal after US priest errs

February 16, 2022

Father Andres Arango was performing the ritual with the words, "We baptize you," instead of the Vatican-sanctioned "I baptize you." Arango had been making the mistake during his entire priesthood.

Catholic Baptism of a baby
Father Arango has had to step down from his role in the wake of the errorImage: Catholic Press Photo/CPP/IPA/picture alliance

Thousands of Catholics in the United States may have to be re-baptized after it was discovered that an Arizona priest had got one word wrong in the blessing for over a quarter of a century.

Father Andres Aragno had been performing baptism rites with the words "we baptize you," rather than "I baptize you," which is the formula sanctioned by the Vatican. Thousands of baptisms conducted by him have thus been deemed invalid.

When did the Church realize?

Arango's error was identified in mid-2021, diocese spokeswoman Katie Burke told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.

"Father Arango was using the incorrect words from the beginning of his priesthood until it was brought to the attention of the diocese last summer," Burke said, adding that she believes the number of people baptized under the invalid rite to number in the thousands.

 "I do not have an exact number of people baptized between 1995 and 2021, but I believe they number in the thousands."

'Invalid baptisms throughout my ministry'

Burke said that Arango has quit his regular job to "dedicate his full-time ministry to helping and healing the people who were affected by this mistake." She added that the parish was working with Arango to make arrangements to baptize people who had been baptized invalidly.

Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted confirmed that the baptisms were invalid after "detailed examination" and consultation with the Vatican.

Coming out in the Catholic Church

The minister announced his resignation on Tuesday through the website of the Saint Gregory Parish in Phoenix.

"It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula," Arango said.

Other invalid baptisms

Arango's case is not unique. In 2020, a Detroit priest noticed in a video of his own baptism that a deacon had used incorrect words during the rite.

As a result, all baptisms performed by the deacon between 1986 and 1999 were deemed invalid.

In the Catholic Church, baptism is necessary for believers to access other blessings.

sdi/jsi (AFP, KNA)