Vatican abuse investigator flies to Chile to hear case of bishop accused of hiding child abuse

23 February 2018

REUTERS

Bishop Juan Barros looks on as Pope Francis leaves at the end of a mass at Lobito Beach in Iquique, Chile, on 18 January

Bishop Juan Barros looks on as Pope Francis leaves at the end of a mass at Lobito Beach in Iquique, Chile, on 18 January

THE Vatican’s abuse investigator has flown to Chile this week to hear evidence against a bishop accused of concealing decades of child abuse.

The Chilean Episcopal Conference announced this week that the Archbishop of Malta, the Most Revd Charles Scicluna, would listen to testimonies and evidence against Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up and witnessing abuse carried out by his former mentor, Fernando Karadima, a priest. It described Archbishop Scicluna’s visit as an “assignment of listening”.

Karadima was accused of sexually abusing children in 2010, and ordered by the Vatican to retire to “a life of prayer and penitence”. He was also subject to a “lifelong prohibition from the public exercise of any ministerial act”.

Pope Francis’s visit to Chile last month caused controversy after he hugged Bishop Barros, and defended him against the accusations. “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak,” the Pope said during his visit.

He later apologised to sexual-abuse victims, acknowledging that his use of the word “proof” had hurt many people.

Evidence later emerged that one of Karadima’s accusers, Juan Carlos Cruz, had previously written to Pope Francis, detailing how Bishop Barros was present while some of the abuse was committed. Mr Cruz met Archbishop Scicluna in the United States last weekend, before the Archbishop’s visit to Chile, to give evidence to him.

The statement from the Episocal Conference said that some of those speaking to the Archbishop had asked to do so anonymously. All of those requesting to see him had been asked to submit written accounts beforehand.

Archbishop Scicluna was the Vatican’s lead sex-crimes investigator from 2002 to 2012.

Pope Francis earlier this week named nine new members of his lapsed sex-abuse commission, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. A Vatican statement said that survivors of abuse had been included on the commission, but not named. The new members come from countries as geographically diverse as Tonga, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Australia.

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