January 19, 2018
By Bill Chappell
Pope Francis has accused victims of sexual abuse in Chile of slander, saying their attacks on a bishop who’s accused of covering up the abuse amount to “calumny.” The remarks triggered anger and demonstrations in Chile, where several churches have been firebombed in the past week.
On the last day of his visit to Chile, Francis set the simmering resentment some hold against the Catholic Church to a full boil with his defense of Bishop Juan Barros. The bishop has been hotly criticized ever since the pope appointed him in 2015. Barros was the protégé of Rev. Fernando Karadima, a notorious disgraced priest who served in the southern city of Osorno and who was found guilty and dismissed in 2011 for abusing dozens of minors over a decades-long period beginning in the 1980s.
Karadima became the face of the church’s sexual abuse scandal in Chile. And his victims say they believe Barros knew about the priest’s abuse but did nothing to stop it or report it. As recently as this week, Barros has denied witnessing any abuse.
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