Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Three bishops fired as Pope tackles sex abuse - and more are expected

Three bishops fired as Pope tackles sex abuse - and more are expected Three bishops fired as Pope tackles sex abuse - and more are expected
Melinda Barton | 13 June, 2018, 16:39

Victims of the scandal hailed the removal of Barros, who has always denied allegations that he witnessed and covered up sexual abuse cases.

The Vatican's announcement comes after an unprecedented move by all of Chile's 34 bishops, who recently offered to resign en masse after attending a crisis meeting with the pope over allegations of a cover-up of sexual abuse in the South American nation.

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.

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.

Victims of Fernando Karadima said Juan Barros had been present when the priest had abused them.

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.

Scicluna is due to return to Chile this week to gather more information.

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.

In addition to Barros, the communique said Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Cristian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt, naming Fr. Ricardo Basilio Morales Galindo, provincial for the Order of Mercy in Chile as apostolic administrator.

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.

Then, during a visit to the country in January, Francis upset victims by describing claims of a cover-up accusing Bishop Barros as "calumny", sparking a controversy that called into question his handling of the sexual abuse scandal. While the Pope has said removing bishops is a necessary step, he has also stressed an intent to tackle the root causes of the abuse problem which he believes goes beyond making personnel changes.

Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of Osorno lay Catholics who fiercely opposed Barros, said Francis' acceptance of the resignation signaled "the end of the damage" that the pope himself had inflicted on the diocese by appointing Barros in the first place.

The pope irked victims by saying during a recent trip to Chile that there was not a "shred of proof" against Barros.

He produced a 2,300-page report, which accused Chile's bishops of "grave negligence" in investigating allegations that children had been abused and found that evidence of sex crimes had been destroyed.