Vatican Chile abuse investigators return on pastoral mission

The Associated Press

May 31, 2018

By Nicole Winfield and Eva Vergara

The Vatican team of investigators who exposed wide-scale priestly sexual abuse and a cover-up in Chile’s Catholic Church is going back to the country on a pastoral mission to the divided diocese of Osorno.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Thursday the visit to Osorno by Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu wasn’t investigative in nature but pastoral, part of Pope Francis’ effort to help Chile heal from the scandal.

Osorno has been badly divided ever since Francis in 2015 tapped Bishop Juan Barros to lead the diocese over the objections of some of Chile’s other bishops. Barros had been a top lieutenant of Chile’s most notorious predator priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, and had been accused by Karadima’s victims of having witnessed and ignored their abuse.

Barros denied the charge, but he was one of the 30-plus Chilean bishops who recently submitted their resignations to the pope after Scicluna and Bertomeu issued a 2,300-page report detailing decades of abuse and cover-up in the Chilean church.

Francis had initially sent the pair to Chile in February to take testimony from victims and witnesses, after drawing widespread public condemnation for having defended Barros during a trip to Chile. Among the 64 people Scicluna and Bertomeu interviewed were members of a delegation from Osorno, which is some 900 kilometers (560 miles) from Santiago.

Among other complaints, Osorno’s lay Catholics have argued that Barros can’t be trusted to protect children from pedophiles in Osorno today if he claims to have never seen any abuse when it was all around him in Karadima’s community.

Barros’ March 2015 installation Mass in Osorno’s cathedral was marred by violent protests by some of the hundreds of local Catholics who have continued to reject him as their bishop, staging regular protests that have divided friends and even families.

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