Peruvian cardinal stripped of newspaper column after being accused of plagiarizing 2 popes

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Peru, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, has come under fire after being accused of plagiarizing two popes in columns published by the country’s leading newspaper.

The unattributed texts were found last week in two columns that El Comercio published, one earlier this month and the other in May. The alleged plagiarism came to light after two reporters from the news website discovered he had lifted texts from Popes Paul VI and Benedict XVI.

As many as six paragraphs were copied, the reporters claim.

After two days of silence, the conservative 71-year-old cardinal wrote a letter to El Comercio saying that he omitted the sources for lack of printing space and that it was done without malice.

“All my pastoral work, including this newspaper article, is based on and is supported by the teachings of Christ himself, of the popes and the Church’s social Doctrine,” he said in part.

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“The heritage of our faith is not subject, so to speak, to intellectual property, but it is common and correct to quote them for a better understanding and, at times, to reinforce the authority of the doctrine set forth.”

“I regret that the lack of space led me to omit the sources and I acknowledge this error,” he wrote in the letter, short of an apology.

The letter was posted by the paper on Wednesday and included a two-paragraph response:

“Cardinal Cipriani posted (…) textual passages from the book 'Communio' of Joseph Ratzinger without using quotation marks or references to the author. Then a similar practice was found in a previous article, published on May 23, 2015, involving an encyclical of Paul VI, 'Ecclesiam Suam'," the response read in part.

El Comercio said it will no longer publish columns by Cardinal Cipriani.

Over the weekend, Cipriani apologized Saturday on a radio program, asking listeners to "pray that we pastors are always true to the teachings of the church."

However, he insisted the omission was not an act of malice and attributed the decision to cut his contributions to El Comercio to "revenge," at a time when he maintains a tough stance against abortion and gay marriage, issues currently under debate in this heavily Catholic country.

"I will continue fighting for the defense of life, for marriage between a man and a woman, for the family," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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