"Father always had two nuns with him". Rupnik was already cause of comment 30 years ago. Family and home town respond to allegations.

How accusations against Father Marko Rupnik resonate in his hometown

Locals in Črni Vrh, where the world-famous Father Marko Ivan Rupnik is from, want to shake off as soon as possible the thought about how much truth there is in the affair about the abuse of nuns.  For them, the decision of the Vatican will be essential.  It will calm the spirits on one side, but at the same time excite the spirits on the other side.  It will certainly never be quite right for everyone.

The family grave, where Patra Rupnik's parents, Ivana and Ivan Rupnik, are buried, and a monument with Patra's mosaic on it.

Will Father Rupnik, a world-renowned artist who has decorated many sacral spaces around the world with his team of artists, have to leave the priest's apartment and retreat behind the walls of the monastery?  Will the mosaics he made with other artists begin to be removed due to the growing accusations that they are desecrated?  What the father created can also be learned from his many books, including the work Barve sojnosti (Koper, 2003).  It also contains photographs of works created at the beginning of his painting career, i.e. at the time of the first alleged abuses.

The mark of the father in Černý Vrch

The artist and theologian Father Marko Rupnik left his artistic mark in Črnji Vrh above Idrija. In the local cemetery, which is one of the most special in Slovenia, with many monuments bearing the family name Rupnik, the monument on the grave of the parents of Father Rupnik stands out the most with its whiteness and mosaic.  The locals also wanted to decorate the parish church of St.Jošto with his mosaic, which the local priest Iztok Mozetič agreed to, but this did not happen because, according to Mozetič (statement to the Reporter), at that time the father had many orders from elsewhere, especially in Brazil.  The last time they met the father in his home parish was before the coronation, but otherwise he has no contact with him; even when he was still a theologian and visited the Vatican with other theologians to see the Chapel of the Mother of the Redeemer, they did not meet him.  Mozetič added that there had been discussions in the parish about the allegations against father.  They had first heard about them in the media and agreed that time would tell.  Mozetič said that he himself did not want to make any statements because the Diocese of Koper was responsible for them, but otherwise the Slovenian bishops spoke about this difficult situation.

Will it happen that Father Ivan Marko Rupnik will go to the monastery after the decision made by the Vatican?

On a chance encounter

The reason that the conversations about father's affair among the locals in Črni Vrh and the surrounding villages, including in Zadlog, where the father is from, are not very heated, is that in such small places everyone knows each other, besides many locals who are called Rupnik and belong to one, the second or the third branch of the Rupnik family.  As the locals claim, the branches are not related to each other.  According to some, the accusations came too late, there were also comments from male interlocutors that something like this could not have happened without a woman's consent, and also that similar stories have happened always and everywhere "as long as this world of ours has stood".

On a sunny morning during the week, when I visited Črna Vrh with photographer Primož Lavret, and later Zadlog and its hamlet Kot, the cemetery in Črna Vrh was visited by my father's elder sister Helena Rupnik, which was possible to learn from a conversation with her husband, which took place quite by chance.  As the first local man we met in Črna Vrch, waiting for his wife in the car, we naturally asked him about Father Rupnik, and he replied that he knew him and that his name was Rupnik: "Nothing special, because there are Rupniks all around here." He then confirmed that he was also related to him through his wife, the father's sister.  So it is understandable that he did not want to talk about father Rupnik, his brother-in-law, and what had already been published in the media.  He is convinced that the affair was instigated by his opponents, for the sake of his success.  When his wife, Rupnik's sister, joined him in the car while he waited, she remarked that nothing was true and that the time would come when everything could be found out.  They are convinced that many times later the truth turns out to be quite different from what is said and claimed.  "Let everything mature and we will all live better," said Stanko Rupnik in his farewell message.

The homestead of the Rupnik family, which was built on a small garden-sized piece of land by Ivan Rupnik, the paternal grandfather's father, is called Pr' Vrtarjev in the vernacular.  Father's older sister and her family now live in it.

Warning fall from masonry scaffolding

Father's sister Helena and her husband Stanko Rupnik live in the house where Father Rupnik's family used to live.  The house is located in the village of Zadlog by the road and on the way there, with the aim of photographing the homestead, we met a local resident, retired Boris Kavčič (he was employed as a warehouse manager at Kolektor in Idrija until his retirement).  He was just on his daily walk through the village and, among other things, he told us an interesting anecdote about Father Rupnik.

The story Kavčič describes happened many years ago when he was a young boy himself. He recalled it vividly, of course, in the light of the recent accusations of his stepfather: "A friend and I were building a barn with a wall height of three and a half metres, and so the scaffolding had to be two metres high.  We were already at the end, we only had a few blocks to make and we had some mortar for them.  We were just talking about how Father Rupnik always had two nuns around him.  It was around 1990 when he came to his home in their company, and because we had seen this, we affirmed to each other that we already knew why he had them with him.  In that moment of our misguided thoughts, the stage fell down!  The plank we were standing on broke and we fell with the blocks and the motorbike.  Fortunately, nothing happened to us.  We said to ourselves that we must have received a warning from God to stop speaking badly about a man about whom we should only speak well."  Another interesting fact mentioned by Kavčič is that the friend with whom he was building the stable was the brother of the well-known priest Janez Kavčič, a sworn exorcist of the Diocese of Koper.

Does he therefore not think that what is being accused of Father Rupnik is true? Boris Kavčič replies, "It could be true, why not, but it is also true that at that time we were warned by God to stop.  Perhaps the present affair was only initiated to cover up the other affair of the Ljubljana diocese with the forests, which is currently being investigated by the Vatican?  Who knows, maybe they want to burden the Vatican with the Rupnik affair ... I wonder what Svetlana Makarovic, who is now silent, would say about the father today."  It is not forgotten (it is not now a topic of public conversation again) that it was precisely because of the Prešeren Prize awarded to Father Rupnik that the poet Makarovič refused the Prešeren Prize intended for her in 2000.

An invitation to father's classmates

As a native of Črni Vrh, Boris Kavčič knew Father Rupnik from his youth, but they did not hang out, as they are not the same age as they are in years.  Kavčič is five years older, besides, they did not have joint conversations due to the difference in education. "Rupnik is an academically educated man, but I'm just a 'graduated bricklayer', as they say," he says jokingly.  “I haven't seen him in a long time and we haven't talked much about him either.  I know that years ago he had a meeting with his peers, with whom he went to primary school in Črni Vrh, and invited them to the Vatican. They went there by bus to see the Pope's Redemptoris Mater chapel, which Rupnik furnished with mosaics."

Kavčič says that he does not go to Mass regularly, he attends church ceremonies here and there, but he knows that Father Rupnik held Mass in Črni Vrh when he was visiting home: "As a local, I am proud of his creation, and when my wife and I were on a trip to Bela Krajina with a group, we happened to stop in Grosuplje, where we saw the church with his mosaics." Kavčič also said that the locals were very surprised, because they had not heard anything bad about the priest before.

Let him become a priest

It is worth mentioning another interesting fact that we learned in conversations with the locals, who said about the members of Rupnik's family that they are respected and valued in their hometown, but they are very hurt by the affair, especially since they live in their hometown, where the parents, the late Ivana and Ivan Rupnik made their home.  His father's words were said to be the deciding factor in Marko Rupnik becoming a priest.  In the difficult conditions during the Second World War, when he was conscripted into the Italian special work brigade, he is said to have said that if he ever had a son, he wanted him to become a priest.  During the war, as we found out in a conversation with the locals, the couple had their first child in 1943, after the war in 1946 the second daughter Helena, the third Ema (in 1951) and then on November 28, 1954, as the last of the children, the son Marko Ivan Rupnik.

Vrtar family ties

Rupnik's two older sisters, Ema and Helena, live in Zadlog with their families.  Ema and her husband Damjan Lampe (the last name Lampe is also very common in these parts) are still the owners of the far-known former inn Pri Metki, where a group of Ukrainian refugees are now housed; the couple ran a successful inn until their retirement.

The Lampe couple's two daughters and their families live near the property.  Daughter Lea, an academic painter by training, has built a studio on her parents' property.  There, she creates mosaics for the Aletti Centre in Rome with her husband, whom she met at the Aletti Centre in Rome, where she was invited by her uncle Marko Rupnik.  The couple's second daughter, Lampe, is called Rupnik after her husband, who is also a native of Zadlog.  The surname Rupnik, as we have already written, is also continued in Helena, the elder sister of Father Rupnik, who stayed in the house, known as the Vrtar family (those who have a garden).  The land was given as a gift by Father Rupnik's father Ivan Rupnik, formerly of Koto, a hamlet in the village of Zadlog.  After the war, when he built a house, he supported his family by, among other things, collecting milk for the cooperative, which was brought to the nearby dairy by farmers; the collection involved both quantitative and qualitative measurements.  This activity was later taken up by his daughter Helena, while her husband Stanko Rupnik, from another branch of the Rupnik family, worked at Kolektor in Idrija.  Mr and Mrs Rupnik have three grown-up children, a daughter and twin sons; one of the sons also has twin sons.

According to the information received, the third of Father Rupnik's sisters and the first born lived in Celje, where she was employed as a midwife and has been gone for a long time, so few people in the village know about her.

Neighbour priest and assistant from Črni Vrh

Father Jože Zajec, who comes from a priestly family, belongs to Father Mark Rupnik's circle of friends from his hometown. Like Father Rupnik, Father Zajec, who was 16 years younger than him, spent his youth in Črna Vrh nad Idrijo, where he attended primary school. While studying at the Theological Seminary and attending spiritual exercises, he joined the Jesuits. After completing his novitiate in Maribor, he went for a four-year internship at the Centro Aletti in Rome, which was then already led by Father Marko Rupnik, and helped to create mosaics in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Pope in the Vatican. Another native of Zadlog is Janez Kavčič, for many years the official exorcist of the Diocese of Koper and a priest in the parish of Šmarje pri Kopru (we have already written about how his brother, together with Boris Kavčič, fell from the scaffolding). What were the contacts between John Kavčič and Father Rupnik, since they were even neighbours in the village (on one side of the road through Zadlog is the Rupnik house, on the other side is the Kavčič family estate), and could Kavčič have seen in the elderly Father Rupnik a role model at that time and decided to take up the priestly vocation as a result of this?

Janez Kavčič said that he remembers the father from his childhood, but he was only a high school graduate when the father was already ordained a priest: "I was only in contact with him a few times, I was also at his first mass." He asserted is that his decision to become a priest was not about being influenced by the priest, nor was he at any spiritual exercises under his guidance, but later, as a priest, he listened to the father's thoughts via YouTube.  He admits that they spoke to him: "I can only say thank God, because God speaks and works even through sinners. Everything that Father Rupnik said is actually the work of God, thank God, because when the 'images' are destroyed, people will go to God without intervention."

No response to writing with requests

Colours of shade

What the father created can also be learned from his many books, including the work Barve sojnosti (Koper, 2003).  It also contains photographs of works created at the beginning of his painting career, i.e. at the time of the first alleged abuses.

As a priest, Janez Kavčič saw Rupnik the most in Šempetro near Nova Gorica, where he was pastor of a home for elderly priests for five years.  At that time, priests from the diocese of Koper proposed that the priest make a mosaic for the home, to which Kavčič agreed.  At the same time, he mentions that he wrote to the patron saint regarding the production of mosaics and also sent requests whether a group of doctors could see the papal chapel with the patron saint's mosaics: "I wrote to him twice, but he did not answer me.  The fact that he didn't answer me, I didn't understand that he didn't want to answer me, but that he had a lot of work to do." Agreements regarding the mosaics in the senior priests' home were made through the Diocese of Koper, Kavčič then made sure that the team that came together with a floor, had everything they needed.  They stayed for a day and a half, as they had already brought the assembled mosaic with them from the Aletti Centre. During this time he talked to the father, but nothing special and not much.

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed

"Even though we are locals, I have never been to Rome to see the Papal Chapel with his mosaics," said Kavčič.  This is also in line with his thinking about the transience of fame and that Rupnik's mosaics are suitable for modern churches, but not for older churches during their renovation.  His predecessor in Šmarje wanted Rupnik's mosaics to be placed in the old Istrian church, which fortunately did not happen.  The mosaics were intended for a new church in Lucia, but it was not built.  According to Kavčič, it is a mistake if there is not enough help for the poor, while money is available for overpriced plans.  Apparently, it is even better now, but of course he does not agree with the initiatives to remove the mosaics.  There are always sinners in the church, but regardless of that, the work they started continues.  This is the case, for example, with the Faith and Light movement, which continues even though it was started by Jean Vanier, who was also accused of sexually abusing women.

In his opinion, the representatives of the institutions should definitely have listened and reacted appropriately when they were informed of the accusations about the father's behaviour towards the sisters.  Even if they did not respond, the key words of Jesus (Luke 8:17) are that "there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light." "But it is true, what I myself encounter (as an official exorcist), that I cannot believe the first word.  Someone is not necessarily possessed by an evil spirit as they think, but it can be a mental illness.  On the other hand, enduring sin for a longer period is an opportunity for the growth of each person, and thus also for the sisters who were not heard."

The commanded confessional silence of the exorcist

Kavčič believes that such actions of the priest, if they occurred and can be proven, are unacceptable, therefore he should do penance for them in the monastery and accept all the consequences, including the fact that he can no longer exercise his priestly profession.  When asked if any of those who turned to him as an exorcist for help told him about possible similar acts allegedly committed by Father Rupnik, Kavčič said that many people came to him, but of course he has the oath of confessional silence: "Even if a nun came to me, I wouldn't be able to say that, because if I broke the oath of the confessional, I would completely lose trust.  I advise them to go to their superiors and tell them that it is not a matter of confidence, but that they want to file a report.  I fully support them in this, but of course they must know that I cannot be their witness.  And even if Father Rupnik came to me, I would not be able to give him absolution, because the rules are clear, as well as regarding trust, which must not be lost.  It's not enough anyway."