Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Pope Francis Accepts Resignations Of 3 Bishops Over Chilean Abuse Scandal

Pope Francis Accepts Resignations Of 3 Bishops Over Chilean Abuse Scandal

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. Bishop Juan Barros Madrid was accused of covering up the acts of a notorious abuser; Pope Francis enraged thousands of Catholics in Chile when he appointed Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno in 2015.

"I told him that Barros was watching us when we were abused, I think that's clear to him now", Juan Carlos Cruz said.

Barros' removal, which had been expected, was met with praise by abuse survivors and Catholics in Osorno, who warned, though, that more resignations and actions must follow to heal the devastation wrought by the scandal.

Francis has apologised to the victims and admitted he had made "grave mistakes" after reading a 2,300-page report on abuses in Chile.

Barros has denied the allegations that he covered up the actions of Fernando Karadima, once one of Chile's most popular priests who prepared boys for the priesthood.

"The day I see proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk".

The Vatican says the pope has accepted the resignations of the other two bishops for reasons of having reached the age limit of 75.

"It's a new day for the Catholic Church of Chile!" He has been sent back to Chile to gather more information.

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Karadima, a charismatic cleric who was a mentor for Barros and other priests, was sentenced by the church in 2011 to a lifetime of penance and prayer for the sex crimes he is accused of. But the Scicluna-Bertomeu report exposed a far bigger scandal that has implicated several religious orders, including priests and brothers in the Franciscans, the Legion of Christ, the Marist Brothers and the Salesian orders.

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.

Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean Catholic Church, noted that the pope has said the case will require short-, medium- and long-term measures, which could include accepting the resignations of more bishops.

Maltese archbishop Charles Scicluna and fellow papal envoy Jordi Bertomeu will take witness statements from victims of sexual abuse within the Church and provide instruction to Chilean dioceses to respond adequately to any new complaints.

Claros said Barros' exit was the "minimum condition" to begin a dialogue with the Vatican to try to rebuild peace in the diocese, and he called for a process to find "truth, justice and reparation" for the damage caused.

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.

AP writer Eva Vergara contributed from Santiago, Chile.

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