Wayward Italian Priests Fostering Creedless Congregations

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by Juliana Freitag  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 11, 2020   

Faithful prelate warns: 'We already live in a situation of schism'

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TURIN, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - In January, Church Militant reported on Bp. Derio Olivero of Pinerolo's deliberate omission of the Nicene Creed during Mass in order to avoid offending non-Catholics. It wasn't the first time Bp. Olivero made headlines for his controversial decisions, as members of his diocese, along with clergy of the neighboring archdiocese of Turin, have been engaging in spreading heretical practices for years. 

Before becoming bishop of Pinerolo in 2017, Msgr. Olivero then was vicar general of the diocese of Fossano, and presented himself for his last celebration in the diocesan cathedral clothed in jeans and t-shirt. He knelt before the congregation and asked to be "blessed" by his parishioners. Liberal Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana praised the gesture as one of "humility ... exactly the way Pope Francis likes it."

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Bp. Derio Olivero

Bishop Olivero also has close ties with heterodox theologian Andrea Grillo, famous for his attacks on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Grillo has said that Benedict should "move away from the Vatican and remain silent forever." Grillo and Olivero have organized formation courses together and the theologian even wrote the preface for the bishop's latest book, published in December. 

Grillo is also close to another wayward Turin priest, Fr. Fredo Olivero, who at Christmas Mass in 2017 also refused to say the Nicene Creed, declaring to his parishioners that he doesn't believe in it. His statements were laughed off by the congregation. During the homily, Fr. Olivero also advised parents to stop preaching children about Hell, as "it serves for nothing and it's harmful." 

He then replaced the Creed with the song "Dolce Sentire" (from the soundtrack of the film 1972 "Brother Sun, Sister Moon," an examination of the life of St. Francis of Assisi), which states in part:

I belong as part of an immense life that generously shines around me, a gift from Him, of His immense love. He has given us the sky and the clear stars, brother Sun and sister Moon, Mother Earth with fruits, meadows and flowers, the fire and the wind, air and pure water, which is source of life for His creatures. 

When announcing the song, Fr. Olivero stated: "After many years, I realized the Creed was something I didn't understand, so I couldn't accept it. Let's sing something else that states the essentials of the Faith."

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In June 2017 Italian journalist Sandro Magister revealed that in Fr. Olivero's celebrations with his ecumenical group Spezziamo il pane insieme ("Let's break bread together"), everyone has free access to Communion — Protestants and Catholics alike. Olivero has affirmed he is sure that this is Pope Francis' "personal thought," allegedly declared by the pontiff himself during his 2015 visit to the Christuskirche, a Lutheran Evangelical church in Rome.

Father Olivero believes the dogma of the transubstantiation must be re-read in a "spiritual key," and since the Lord's Supper "belongs to Jesus, not to churches," the priest asserts, it's possible that every baptized Christian can receive Communion "according to their own conscience." 

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Fr. Fredo Olivero

These affirmations were made in a document released by Riforma, the online news outlet of the Baptist, Methodist and Valdesian churches in Italy. The document has also stated that "neither Jesus nor the apostles have explained the exact meaning of Jesus' words during the Lord's Supper, hence not specifying the manner of the presence of the Risen Christ." 

The document was signed by several Protestant pastors and Catholic theologians, including Fr. Olivero and Grillo. In early 2019, Bp. Derio Olivero showed enthusiastic support for the ecumenical initiative, declaring that Spezziamo il pane insieme is "the dream he carries in his heart."

After replacing the Creed with "Dolce Sentire" in 2017, Fr. Olivero was rebuked by Turin Abp. Cesare Nosiglia. Olivero then assured the archdiocese that he would, from then on, say the Creed exactly as prescribed in the Missal.

But the following year, the priest struck again during Christmas Mass by including a personally modified version of the Creed, which included: 

We believe in Jesus Christ the Son, we commit to Him in the construction of the Kingdom, of an alternative society where the restlessness to accumulate is replaced by the restlessness to share, where the desire to command is replaced by the freedom to serve. ... We believe in the Catholic Church, universal, space of love and freedom where every single person can feel loved, welcomed and respected in their diversity.

During this Mass, the gospel was read by a member of the laity and the homily was full of political rhetoric — openly criticizing conservative Italian political leader Matteo Salvini. Once again, Fr. Olivero's remarks were met with laughter. 

A similar do-it-yourself adaptation of the Creed took place in 2018 in the diocese of Pinerolo, under the leadership of Bp. Derio Olivero. Father Bruno Marabotto led his congregation in his own made-up version of the prayer in Mass. After this, he refused to respond to Catholic daily La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana's requests for comment. A spokesperson for the diocese dismissed the controversy, insisting the matter should be discussed directly with the priest — the bishop shouldn't be involved.

There are spaces in the Catholic Church in which we already live in a situation of schism.

Just a few days after Bp. Olivero's suppression of the Creed during this year's Epiphany Mass, Abp. Luigi Negri, former head of the diocese of Ferrara-Comacchio, was interviewed by La Verità. Reflecting on the biggest problems facing the Church today, he said: "Nobody can put the Church in danger other than Herself. Today's Church thinks that the problem of Her existence is to try solving the problems of the world." 

When asked about the danger of schism, Abp. Negri said a schism is always possible, but added:

There are spaces in the Catholic Church in which we already live in a situation of schism. ... When I was bishop, I had to compel many priests to start saying the Creed during Mass again, threatening to take away their faculty to celebrate if they disobeyed. It's not a legitimate Mass if it's not said according to the [Code of] Canon [Law].

The archbishop concluded his comments by stating that the Church must always put the Faith first. "We need prelates who are men of Faith," he said. "It's not a coincidence the non-negotiable values of which Benedict XVI always spoke disappeared with him. Maybe his ousting also depended also on the fact that such values were proposed peremptorily."

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