January 14, 2018
By Philip Pullella
Pope Francis starts a trip to Chile and Peru on Monday, attempting to inject new confidence in the staunchly Catholic countries where the Church’s credibility has been severely damaged by sexual abuse scandals.
On his visit to Peru, the second leg of the Jan. 15-22 tour, Francis will also find a destabilizing political corruption crisis has reopened wounds from one of the country’s darkest periods of human rights abuses.
In Chile, where the Argentine pope arrives on Monday night, Catholics have planned daily protests against his 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros to head the small diocese of Osorno, a small city south of the Chilean capital.
Barros has been accused of protecting his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima, whom a Vatican investigation in 2011 found guilty of abusing teenage boys over many years. Karadima has denied the allegations and Barros said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
The situation for the Church was complicated last week by the leak in Chile of a 2015 letter from the pope to local bishops showing that the Vatican had planned to ask Barros to take a one-year leave at the end of his previous post in 2014. That plan went awry and Barros was appointed to Osorno.
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