TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (ChurchMilitant.com) - Honduran Cdl. Óscar Maradiaga, head of Pope Francis' group of cardinal-advisors, was forced to flee a mob at Toncontín International Airport in Tegucigalpa on Thursday, fearing for his life.
Speaking to sources in Honduras, journalist Edward Pentin tweeted that Maradiaga, nicknamed the "Vice Pope" owing to his close relationship with Francis, was evacuated from an outbound plane, making his escape out a back airport entrance and across a runway, owing to "danger of lynching."
"His support for govt's bad policies means he's seen as paid govt official," Pentin explained.
++Maradiaga has been evacuated from a Rome-bound plane due to political protests at Honduras airport. Sources say he was led out the back of the airport, across runway, due to danger of lynching. His support for govt’s bad policies means he’s seen as paid govt official, they say pic.twitter.com/d1g12qs2k9— Edward Pentin (@EdwardPentin) May 30, 2019
According to leftist Latin American news outlet teleSUR, the protests were directed against efforts by the Honduran government to privatize healthcare, education and pensions.
Inside and outside Honduras, Maradiaga is widely seen as a hypocrite, indulging in a lavish lifestyle even as he preaches on poverty, promoting a socialist vision for the Church, calling for it to become "a poor Church for the poor" and "a community of equals, without castes or classes; without rich or poor; without impositions or anathemas."
The cardinal has been hounded by suspicion of financial corruption. In 2017, the Vatican launched an inquiry into allegations of financial misconduct against Maradiaga, including large sums received from the Honduran government through a Church-controlled agency.
Bishop Jorge Pedro Casaretto, the papal envoy in charge of the investigation, issued a report revealing that Maradiaga was paid approximately $42,000 a month from the Catholic University of Tegucigalpa, where he is Grand Chancellor, with a bonus of $64,200, raking in a total of $600,000 in salary in 2015 alone.
The cardinal claimed the entire sum was directed toward the diocese, but records showed no entries from the University of Tegucigalpa in diocesan funds.
Dovetailing the Vatican investigation, a Honduran court launched an investigation into a government donation of millions of dollars to the Foundation for Education and Social Communication, which Maradiaga controls, as well as enormous amounts of money streaming through the Suyapa Foundation, which controls the Tegucigalpa diocesan newspaper and television operations — also under Maradiaga's supervision.
Maradiaga has also been accused of sheltering a gay bishop guilty of financial misconduct, now removed from his post.
In 2018, Martha Alegría Reichmann, widow of the former head of the Vatican Diplomatic Corps — and a friend of Maradiaga for decades — blamed the cardinal for the loss of her life savings, after he directed her husband to invest a large sum of money with London-based fund manager, Youssry Henien, in 2012.
Henien "disappeared into nothing with our money," Reichmann said. "I told everything to Pope Francis, even before the apostolic visitor who conducted an investigation [into Maradiaga] in Honduras. But a year has passed and neither I nor other victims have obtained justice."
"It's a shame my husband and I welcomed Maradiaga into our home for 40 years, and he has repaid us in this way. He betrayed us; he destroyed us," she added.
Reichmann also accused the cardinal of shielding his auxiliary bishop, Juan Pineda, an accused homosexual predator, from scrutiny.
"Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga knows everything his right hand does, Auxiliary Bishop Juan Pineda, but he has always covered and protected him," she said. "He does whatever it takes to rescue him. ... He has been doing it for almost 20 years."
In a 2018 interview with Pentin, Reichmann commented further: "It is known that at present the Church in Tegucigalpa is governed by terror towards anyone who dares to question the Cardinal’s bad decisions or, even more dangerously, to rub up against the auxiliary Juan Jose Pineda. Everyone who has done this has already been marginalized."