A Brazilian bishop has been arrested in connection with a corruption case involving around $600,000 (£423,000).
Police raided the home of Jose Ronaldo Ribeiro, the bishop of Formosa, who is accused of working with other Catholic clergymen to divert the money.
Footage released shows officers retrieving a bag of cash from behind what appears to be a shelf.
Prosecutors said the money was stolen from collection boxes, tithes, donations and wedding and baptism fees at churches in three cities near Brazil’s capital – Formosa, Posse and Planaltina.
The group is alleged to have bought a cattle ranch and a lottery ticket shop with the money.
A spokeswoman for the Goias state prosecutor’s office said other clergymen were arrested in Formosa but would not confirm their names.
Globo TV reported that along with Ribeiro, authorities arrested four priests and a vicar general in connection with the case.
Ribeiro was appointed to the diocese of Formosa, in the centre-west state of Goias, by Pope Francis in 2014.
The investigation began in 2015 after parishioners complained – but in an interview with local media two years ago, the bishop had denied any wrong-doing.
Brazilian bishop charged with stealing from diocesan donations
Bishop Jose Ronaldo took office as new bishops of the Diocese of Formosa Nov. 2014. Youtube
The Catholic Register
March 21, 2018 By Catholic News Service
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of money that was allegedly stolen.
BRASILIA, Brazil – Bishop Jose Ronaldo Ribeiro of Formosa was arrested and charged, along with four diocesan priests, of stealing about $606,000 USD of diocesan money.
On March 21, two days after the arrest, Pope Francis named Archbishop Paulo Mendes Peixoto of Uberaba to serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese. The Pope did not remove Bishop Ribeiro from his post.
Prosecutors in the state of Goias allege Bishop Ribeiro and the priests purchased a cattle ranch and a lottery store with the diverted money. The courts authorized prosecutors to wiretap the telephones of the accused.
Officials who issued the warrants and searched the bishop’s home said they found money hidden in a secret compartment in a closet.
The prosecutor in charge of this case, Douglas Chegury, told local Brazilian media that the bishop is also suspected of stealing from parishioners in another diocese, in the state of Minas Gerais, where he served from 2007 to 2014.
“The bishop faced this same type of problem in the Diocese of Janauba. He was transferred from there to here, where he implemented a similar scheme,” Chegury was quoted as saying by G1 news site.
Prosecutors are now said to be looking into allegations that priests paid Bishop Ribeiro monthly “allowances” so that they could be placed in more profitable parishes.
On March 20, the Brazilian bishops’ conference issued a statement expressing solidarity with the parishioners of the Formosa Diocese.
The statement said the bishops reminded Bishop Ribeiro “that justice is to abandon oneself to the merciful will of God. The truth of the facts must be determined with justice and transparency, for the good of the individual church and the bishop.” The statement also asked for prayer.
Brazilian bishop arrested, accused of stealing $600,000
Mar 20, 2018
ROSARIO, Argentina – A bishop and several other Church officials have been arrested in Brazil, accused of stealing around $600,000 from the faithful. The arrests took place as part of an operation called “Caiphas,” which began at the crack of dawn on Monday.
Close to a dozen people, including Bishop José Ronaldo Ribeiro, the diocesan vicar general, and four other priests are accused of conspiracy to commit a crime and of having diverted resources from the Diocese of Formosa, according to reports by Spanish news agency Efe.
Ronaldo was appointed to the diocese of Formosa, in the center-west state of Goiás, by Pope Francis in 2014.
Before being appointed to Formosa, Ronaldo served for seven years as bishop of Janaúba, a city north of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, where he was also accused of irregularities that were never investigated, according to local news site EM.
The ongoing investigation by prosecutors and police started in 2015, following complaints by parishioners. In an interview with local media two years ago, Ronaldo denied any wrong-doing, saying that the money collected from parishes is used to pay for the maintenance of priest’s residences, seminaries, and other church buildings.
According to prosecutors, the money came from church collections boxes, donations, as well as wedding and baptism fees.
Efe also reports that sources from the Public Ministry of Goiás told them that up to nine people have been arrested, and that authorities were executing ten search warrants simultaneously in three different locations: Formosa, Posse and Planaltina.
Since being appointed to Formosa, Ronaldo has refused to give an account of diocesan funds, and in January the faithful decided to stage a protest urging transparency by withholding their donations from the collection plate.
The center-west section of the Brazilian bishops’ conference (CNBB) released a statement on Monday, saying they are “united in prayer, participating in the pain of the diocesan church of Formosa.”
The statement also says that the president of the regional CNBB, Bishop Messias dos Reis Silveira, of Uruaçu, was in Formosa in the name of Pope Francis and at the request of the Vatican’s embassy in Brazil.
The bishop is in Formosa to “express the solidarity and closeness of the nunciature with the church of Formosa and also with the diocesan bishop,” after the allegations against him. As the statement notes, “the investigation and clarification of facts are still in progress.”