ROME – In what amounts to Pope Francis’s latest attempt to resolve a massive clerical sexual abuse crisis, the Chilean bishops’ conference announced Wednesday that his top two investigators will return to Chile June 14-17, visiting a diocese where a controversial bishop has been accused of covering up acts of abuse.
The bishops’ statement said that Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, a former official of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, a current official of the congregation, will be in the diocese over those three days.
Osorno is the diocese led by Bishop Juan Barros, appointed to the position by Pope Francis in 2015. That move caused an uproar and triggered Chile’s present crisis, which is seeing new revelations and allegations emerge almost every day.
Victims of Father Fernando Karadima, the country’s most notorious pedophile priest, have accused Barros of knowing about the abuse they suffered at his hands but doing nothing. Karadima was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011.
Scicluna and Bertomeu, who were in Chile earlier this year at the pope’s behest, will also be in Santiago June 12-13 and 18-19. This second visit was announced by the Vatican last Thursday, without precise dates, and the Vatican said the scope of the visit will be to “advance the process of reparation and healing.”
The last time Scicluna and Bertomeu were in Chile they produced a 2,300 page report, a product of conversations with 64 people. That mission kick-started a process of reform of the Chilean Church, that has included trips to Rome to meet Francis by two groups of clerical sexual abuse victims and also by Chile’s entire bishops’ conference.
At the time of their meetings with Francis in mid-May, all the Chilean bishops presented their resignation to the pope, who has yet to accept them. In total, four of the bishops, including Barros, are accused of having covered up for Karadima, who in effect was their mentor.
In addition, at least five of Chile’s bishops, including Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, the national capital, are over 75, meaning they had presented their resignations before travelling to Rome to meet the pope.