A priest incorrectly performed thousands of baptisms for decades – by changing one word

A priest in Arizona resigned after he incorrectly performed baptisms for decades, possibly derailing the rite for thousands of people.

The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix on its website confirmed Andres Arango 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” in English and Spanish.

The diocese explained that the single incorrect word matters for worshippers because “it is not the community that baptizes a person and incorporates them into the Church of Christ; rather, it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides at all sacraments.”

“Therefore, it is Christ who baptizes,” the diocese said. “If you were baptized using the wrong words, that means your baptism is invalid, and you are not baptized.”

For Catholic worshippers, a baptism typically involves people, usually infants, having water poured on their heads during a religious ceremony.

And shrugging off the invalid baptisms isn’t an option for many worshippers, because it affects sacred practices for Catholics such as confirmation, communion and more. The Diocese of Phoenix said the confusion could also affect marriages.

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Arango has resigned as pastor of St. Gregory Parish in Phoenix.

“I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Arango has served as a pastor, parochial administrator, parochial vicar and other religious roles for more than 20 years in Brazil, California and Arizona. All of the baptisms he performed “until June 17, 2021, are presumed invalid,” the Diocese of Phoenix said.

The diocese confirmed to USA TODAY that "the number of baptisms Father Arango has performed in his priestly ministry" is in the thousands.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's orthodoxy office, said in 2020 that baptisms performed by saying “we” instead of “I” are not valid.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said in a statement he does “not believe Fr. Andres had any intentions 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,” he said.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Catholic priest resigns after performing incorrect baptisms