Alarm as church finds priest used wrong baptism words for 26 years


Thousands of Catholics in the United States may need to be rebaptized after the church discovered a priest had gotten a word in the blessing wrong for decades, invalidating the rite.

For 26 years, Father Andres Arango had performed the first sacrament of Catholic life with the words “We baptize you,” instead of the Vatican-sanctioned “I baptize you.”

“It is not the community that baptizes a person and incorporates him into the Church of Christ; rather it is Christ, and Christ alone, who presides over all the sacraments; therefore, it is Christ who baptizes,” Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, said.

Arango’s error was identified in mid-2021, a quarter of a century after he began working as a priest, diocesan spokeswoman Katie Burke told AFP on Tuesday.

“Father Arango was using incorrect words from the start of his priesthood until it came to the attention of the diocese last summer,” she said.

“I don’t have the exact number of people baptized between 1995 and 2021, but I believe there are thousands.”


Since the error was exposed, Arango has quit his regular job “to dedicate his full-time ministry to helping and healing those affected by this error,” Burke said.

“The diocese is working closely with Father Arango and the parishes to which he was previously assigned to notify and make arrangements to baptize anyone who may have been invalidly baptized.”

A website has been created to answer questions from concerned parishioners, including: “Does this affect my marriage?” and “Do I need to go to confession?”

Baptism in the Catholic Church is a rite of admission which, according to church doctrine, is necessary for a believer to gain access to other blessings.

In common with other Christian denominations, this normally involves sprinkling or pouring water on the head, or the supplicant being immersed.

Catholics believe that only baptized people can enter heaven after death.

Arango’s error is not the first; in 2020, a Michigan priest discovered he needed to be rebaptized after watching a family video in which the officiant also used “we” instead of “I”.

Martha J. Finley