Pope accepts resignation of 3 Chilean bishops in sex abuse scandal

Wednesday, 13 Jun, 2018

Pope Francis has accepted the resignations of three Chilean bishops following sex abuse scandals, including Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, the city at the centre of the uproar, the Vatican said on Monday.

The Vatican's top abuse investigator arrived in Chile on Tuesday, a day after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of three bishops from the scandal-wracked Chilean Church.

He also accepted the resignation of Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar of Valparaíso, naming Bishop Pedro Mario Ossandón Buljevic, auxiliary bishop of Chile, as apostolic administrator.

Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno was accused of covering up the acts of a notorious abuser, and the pope enraged thousands of Catholics in Chile when he appointed Barros as bishop in 2015.

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.

But days after returning to Rome, a chastened pope, citing new information, sent sexual abuse investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to Chile to speak to victims, witnesses and other church members.

The Vatican in 2011 sentenced Karadima, a powerful preacher close to Chile's elite, to a lifetime of penance and prayer for his sex crimes.

Barros, who is a central figure in the controversy, has been accused of covering up abuse committed by another priest in the 80s and 90s. Both are 75, the age when bishops normally retire.

Some of the victims have accused Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, a key adviser to Francis, of ignoring and helping to cover up Karadima's abuses.

He also made a decision to host three Chilean sex abuse survivors at his home in the Vatican so he could apologise to them personally and hear their recommendations for change.

"The resignation of these bishops should not dilute their criminal responsibility", he said.

Francis angered anti-abuse activists and others in Chile when, during a trip to the South American nation in January, he told an interviewer that the accusations against Barros lacked evidence and amounted to "calumnies". He named a temporary leader for each diocese.

The announcement came in a June 11 communique from the Vatican, along with the resignation of two other Chilean bishops.

The scandals have deeply eroded many Chileans' faith in their church, as has happened in many countries in recent years because of cases of abuse by priests.

About 80 Roman Catholic priests have been reported to authorities in Chile for alleged sexual abuse over the past 18 years.

Following this, it was widely expected that Bishop Barros' resignation would be among the first that the Pope would accept. Barros had twice previously offered to resign.