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Pastor baptized people for decades but he used one wrong word and now they're all invalid

An investigation by the diocese found the priest had incorrectly performed thousands of baptisms.

Pastor baptized people for decades but he used one wrong word and now they're all invalid
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Priest is baptizing a little baby girl in a church

Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 16, 2022. It has since been updated.

A Catholic priest resigned after an investigation found that he used one wrong word for more than 20 years while performing baptisms. All baptisms performed by Father Andres Arango were declared void because he mistakenly used "We" instead of "I." Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix announced the decision. The investigation revealed that Father Arango consistently said, "We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Olmsted clarified that he was supposed to say "I baptize" and not "We baptize," reported CNN. The pastor apologized for using the 'wrong formula.' 

The priest is baptizing a baby girl in a church - stock photo/Getty Images

Father Arango resigned from his role as pastor at St. Gregory Parish in Phoenix, effective February 1, 2022. "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," wrote Olmsted to parishioners. "This determination was made after careful study by diocesan officials and through consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome," read the statement.


Baptism is considered the first of the sacraments and the church confirmed that some people will need to repeat other sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Catholic church, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing the sick, marriage, and holy orders. "Through the Sacraments, God shares his holiness with us so that we, in turn, can make the world holier," reads a statement on the website about sacraments. Olmsted confirmed that people will have to be baptized again as the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2020 states that when baptism is conferred with the formula "We baptize," it is invalid. He had baptized people in Phoenix and at his previous parishes in Brazil and San Diego, reported The New York Times.

"It saddens me to learn that I have performed invalid baptisms throughout my ministry as a priest by regularly using an incorrect formula," said Arango in a message posted on the diocese's website. "I deeply regret my error and how this has affected numerous people in your parish and elsewhere," Arango added. While Arango has resigned over the issue, Olmsted said it was an inadvertent mistake by the pastor and he didn't mean any harm. "I too am sincerely sorry that this error has resulted in disruption to the sacramental lives of a number of the faithful. This is why I pledge to take every step necessary to remedy the situation for everyone impacted," said Olmsted.


Arango, who began his career in Brazil in 1995, will continue as a priest and spend his time helping those who had invalid baptisms. The diocese established a dedicated website to assist those affected by the invalid baptisms. The diocese also clarified that baptisms performed by Arango after June 17, 2021, are valid. Katie Burke, the diocese's spokesperson, said some new baptisms have already taken place. Father Arango “remains a priest in good standing,” said Burke. “His voluntary resignation allows him to dedicate his full-time ministry to helping and healing the families who were affected by this error."

The priest throws the sacred water into the baptismal font during a baby's baptism - stock photo/Getty Images

"I ask that you join me in praying for Father Andres and for all of those who are going to be impacted by this unfortunate situation. I pledge to work diligently and swiftly to bring peace to those who have been affected," wrote Olmsted.

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