Pope Accepts Resignation Of Bishop He Initially Defended In Sex Abuse Scandal

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2018

Victims of a sexual abuse scandal by clerics in Chile's Roman Catholic Church applauded Pope Francis' decision Monday to accept the resignations of three bishops - including a prelate at the epicenter of cascading allegations of sexual abuse, cover-ups and impunity.

The pope on Monday accepted the resignations of three of Chile's 34 bishops who were summoned to Rome last month, including Osorno's Juan Barros, who is accused of masking abuses by pedophile priest Fernando Karadima.

Of the three, only Barros is below the retirement age of 75.

Francis also called temporary leaders for each of the dioceses.

The bishop of Osorno, Juan Barros, takes part in an open-air mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Lobitos Beach, near the Chilean northern city of Iquique, on January 18, 2018.

The Chilean Jesuit order confirmed that it had received several complaints about Ibacache, now in his 90s and retired, and said it had appointed an independent lay lawyer to investigate and appealed to victims to come forward.

Barros has denied the allegations.

Abuse survivors have alleged that when Bishop Barros was still a priest he witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima.

"We are seeking to provide concrete technical and legal advice.so that [the Church] can give a proper response to each case of sexual abuse", Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta said at a news conference in Santiago.

"This is huge not only for the Chilean church but for the entire world", Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean abuse survivor who helped lead a campaign pressuring the Vatican to take action, said in a phone interview, echoing public comments from other victims and church-reform advocates.

The scandal and fury over the bishop cast a dark shadow over Francis' visit to Chile earlier this year: At least five churches were attacked in Santiago -some with firebombs - and a death threat was made against the pope.

His nomination quickly drew criticism from Chilean adherents, some of the country's other bishops and the pope's own sex abuse prevention advisers.

Those findings, which leaked to the media while the Chilean bishops were at the Vatican, have opened a Pandora's Box of new accusations that led Francis to become the first pope to refer to a "culture of abuse and coverup" in the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Scicluna, who is president of a board of review handling abuse cases within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Fr Bertomeu, an official of the doctrinal congregation, were scheduled to be in Santiago June 12-13 before going to Osorno June 14-17.

Francis has promised Chilean Catholics affected by sexual abuse that "never again" would the church ignore them or the cover-up of abuse in their country.

The Pope continued to defend his appointment, telling reporters: "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak".

Father Enrique Opazo, a priest based in the seaside resort of Vina del Mar who has been critical of how the Church handled the crisis in Chile, said it was time for "wholesale" change.

After receiving their 2,300-page report detailing the extent of clergy sexual abuse in Chile, the Pope apologised.

Other reports by iNewsToday