By Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli
ROME — In the instant he became one of the most controversial figures in modern Catholic Church history, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò went dark.
The retired Vatican ambassador to Washington wrote a bombshell letter last summer calling on Pope Francis to resign on the grounds that he had tolerated a known sexual abuser. As that letter was published, Viganò turned off his phone, told friends he was disappearing, and let the church sort through the fallout.
Nine months later, in his first extended interview since that moment, Viganò refused to disclose his location or say much about his self-imposed exile. But his comments indicate that, even in hiding, he is maintaining his role as the fiercest critic of the Francis era, acting either as an honorable rebel or, as his critics see it, as an ideological warrior attacking a pope he doesn’t like.
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