Bishop Loses Military Title, But Can Still Work

Argentina Withdraws Recognition From Prelate

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BUENOS AIRES, MARCH 22, 2005 ( The Argentine government told the papal nuncio in Buenos Aires that it no longer recognizes Bishop Antonio Baseotto as the military prelate.

Argentina’s secretary of worship, Guillermo Oliveri, who relayed the message, said that the prelate may continue to exercise his episcopal ministry in the armed forces.

By decision of Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, announced Friday by Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa and Cabinet head Alberto Fernández, the prelate’s endorsement was withdrawn. He lost his salary and his title as undersecretary of state proper to a military bishop.

The decision was in response to statements by Bishop Baseotto against Health Minister Ginés González García, who favors the legalization of abortion. The prelate wrote the health minister a letter stating that his position might imply a “defense of the crime of homicide.”

In reference to the health minister’s public distribution of condoms among youths, Bishop Baseotto quoted the Gospel: “Those who scandalize children should have a millstone hung around their neck and be thrown into the sea.”

The media interpreted the quotation as a reference to the “death flights” of the 1970s, when which political prisoners were thrown alive into the Atlantic by the Argentine army.

On Saturday, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls published a statement affirming: “Obviously, if a bishop appointed legitimately by the Holy See is prevented from exercising his pastoral ministry, according to the norms of Canon Law and existing agreements, it would be a violation of religious freedom, as well as of the above-mentioned agreements.”

Today, Argentine Foreign Minister Bielsa clarified: “I wish to say categorically that the freedom of military faithful and their families to continue to benefit from pastoral care will in no way be affected.”

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