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Priest Resigns After Catholic Church Voids Thousands of His Baptisms Over 1-Word Mistake

People logo People 2/15/2022 Jason Duaine Hahn

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An Arizona priest resigned this month after the Diocese of Phoenix concluded that his mix-up of a single word during the baptisms he performed over his career made them all invalid.

In a letter posted to their website, the Diocese of Phoenix announced that Rev. Andres Arango had mistakenly used an incorrect word in each Rite of Baptism he performed until the error was noticed in June of last year.

Instead of saying, "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" during his baptisms, Arango had switched "I" with "We."

While seemingly innocuous at first, the oversight completely changes an important line in the "Baptismal Formula," the diocese explained.

"The issue with using 'We' is that it is not the community that baptizes a person, rather, it is Christ, and Him alone, who presides at all of the sacraments, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptizes," Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, said in a statement.

The decision to void Arango's previous baptisms came after "careful study" by diocesan officials, Olmsted explained, and through additional talks with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

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Video: Baptisms by Arizona priest presumed invalid due to error (Associated Press)

On their website, the Diocese declared that if anyone has been baptized using the wrong words, they are not baptized and still need to be. They compared it to a priest using milk instead of wine during the Consecration of the Eucharist, which would render it invalid because the milk would not become the Blood of Jesus Christ.

"On behalf of our local Church, I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of a number of the faithful," Olmsted said in his letter. "This is why I pledge to take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted."

Olmsted added that he didn't believe Arango "had any intentions to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments."

When reached by PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the diocese emphasized that Arango "remains a priest in good standing." Arango voluntarily resigned his position as pastor of St. Gregory Parish in order to "spend his full-time ministry helping and healing the people affected by this mistake," they added.

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Arango was a practicing priest for more than two decades, NBC News reported. According to CNN, he performed thousands of baptisms over his career.

In a separate statement posted to the diocese's website, Arango expressed remorse for his mistake.

"It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula," he said, adding that his resignation went into effect at the start of February. "I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere."

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"I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for having given me the opportunity to serve your community so many years ago," he added. "You have all enriched my life beyond measure. It has been a blessing and an honor to have served and worked alongside people that I consider my dear friends and family."

The baptism error could present other problems for those affected, the diocese said. Because baptism is the "entry point" for other sacraments, a nullified baptism would also invalidate any confirmation, marriage and holy orders that came after it.

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