MADRID (AFP) - A Colombian man who pretended to be a Roman Catholic priest for 18 years hearing confessions and celebrating weddings, was exposed just before Christmas, the diocese in Spain where he was preaching said Monday (Dec 24).
Marriages and baptisms carried out by Miguel Angel Ibarra remain valid but confessions are not even though the "grace of God acted" on the faithful who were deceived, the spokesman for the diocese of Cadiz and Ceuta told AFP.
Ibarra moved to Spain from Colombia in October 2017 and had been in charge of the church in the village of Medina Sidonia, which is home to some 11,000 people, in the southern region of Andalusia.
He had pretended to be a priest for the past 18 years, she added.
Colombian church officials informed the diocese on Dec 13 that it had received a complaint that Ibarra had forged his ordination documents and that after carrying out a "thorough investigation" they had concluded that he had never been ordained, the Spanish diocese said in a statement.
He was ordered to go back to his archdiocese of origin in Colombia, Santa Fe de Antioquia, it added.
The diocese of Cadiz and Ceuta said it regretted that "events like this could overshadow the work of parishioners and ordained priests, who serve the Church every day in an exemplary way".
Like in other increasingly secular European countries, Spain is finding it difficult to attract new recruits to the priesthood in recent years and has had to resort to importing priests, often from its former colonies in Latin America.