Priest incorrectly performed thousands of baptisms by changing word, making them invalid

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A priest has resigned from a Catholic church in Phoenix, Arizona, after it was determined he incorrectly performed thousands of baptisms for decades by changing one word. 

Father Andres Arango resigned from St. Gregory Catholic Church in Phoenix after it was determined he used the words “We baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” instead of the correct phrase “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” according to Thomas J. Olmsted, the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix.

“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,” Olmsted said.

Pope Benedict XVI baptises a newborn baby in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel on January 10, 2010 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by  L’Osservatore Romano-Vatican Pool via Getty Images)

Arango served as a pastor, parochial administrator, parochial vicar, and other religious titles in Arizona, California, and Brazil over the past 20 years. The Diocese of Phoenix said that because of his error, “all of the baptisms he has performed until June 17, 2021, are presumed invalid.”

The diocese told USA TODAY that Arango performed thousands of baptisms during his time “in his priestly ministry.”

In a statement, Arango said he was resigning as pastor of the parish effective, Feb. 1.

“It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula. I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere,” Arango said. “With the help of the Holy Spirit and in communion with the Diocese of Phoenix I will dedicate my energy and full time ministry to help remedy this and heal those affected.”

For those in the Catholic faith, a baptism is a sacrament in which people, typically infants, have water poured over their foreheads, which symbolizes purification and admission to the Church. 

“Baptism is a requirement for salvation,” according to the Diocese of Phoenix. 

Following the mishap by Arango, the diocese created a FAQ page designed to answer questions people may have about specific rules. 

On that page, the diocese stated that if a baptism is invalid, and you’ve received other sacraments you may need to repeat some or all once your baptism is eventually valid.

When asked how an invalid baptism would impact those married by the church, the diocese stated: “Maybe! Unfortunately, there is no single clear answer.”

In his statement, Olmsted said that he did not believe Arango meant “to harm the faithful or deprive them of the grace of baptism and the sacraments.”

“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 added. 

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