ROME — The only two archbishops in Slovenia have resigned at the urging of Pope Francis, over their role in the collapse of two financial companies that left the Archdiocese of Maribor on the hook for their billion-dollar debts.
“I hope and pray to God that this step I have taken will help restore credibility to the Slovenian Church, as it deserves it,” Archbishop Anton Stres of Ljubljana said in a statement on July 31.
Archbishop Marjan Turnšek of Maribor also resigned his office on July 31, and he said at a joint news conference with Archbishop Stres that he hopes “this gesture can contribute to the renewal of the Slovenian Church and give its representatives more strength in promoting [the] New Evangelization.”
The news of financial problems in the Archdiocese of Maribor was first made public by the Italian news magazine L’Espresso in January 2011, when it reported that the two financial firms, Zvon Ena Holding and Zvon Dva Holding, had racked up 800 million euros ($1 billion) in debt from bad investments.
The fallout from the disaster hit the Maribor Archdiocese hard since it was a majority owner in the firms.
Although he was the head of the Ljubljana Archdiocese until yesterday, Archbishop Stres was involved in the affairs in Maribor as its coadjutor archbishop between Jan. 31, 2009, and Nov. 28, 2009. He also served as an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese between June 2000 and April 2006.
Both prelates declared they were not the main people who made the poor financial decisions that led to the financial meltdown, but they took responsibility for their part in the matter.
“It is not the diocese which brought down Zvon I and II, but it was the two Zvons which brought down the archdiocese,” Archbishop Stres said, referring to the two companies.
Soon after the investment companies declared bankruptcy, Mirko Krašovec, the chief of financial operations at the Maribor Archdiocese, left his post, which was followed by Archbishop Franc Kramberger resigning as head of the Maribor Archdiocese in February 2011.
According to The Slovenia Times, the cumulative debt for the two firms, plus Gospodarstvo rast, the company through which the archdiocese managed the two investment funds, is 1.7 billion euros ($2.2 billion).
Besides all of the country’s banks being hit by the collapse, 65,000 small-scale investors stand to lose some of the funds, the Slovene paper said.
Pope Francis has appointed two apostolic administrators for the vacant sees, the only two archdioceses in Slovenia, until he is able to name their new bishops.
Bishop Andrej Glavan of Novo Mesto will oversee the Ljubljana Archdiocese, while Bishop Stanislav Lipovsek of Celje will serve as the apostolic administrator of the Maribor Archdiocese.