OSORNO, Chile – As part of their special mission to help bring healing to the troubled Chilean diocese of Osorno, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu are holding several pastoral meetings this week which they say are aimed at listening.
Speaking to Chilean media at the airport after landing in Osorno, Scicluna said they came “to convey the special closeness of the pope to the beloved people of Osorno. We are going to have a lot of discussion and will listen to our brothers, which is the most important [task] for us.”
Similarly, Bertomeu said they are “happy to be here in Osorno,” and voiced hope that they would be able “to communicate the Holy Father’s request for forgiveness in peace, in concord and in harmony.”
Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and the Vatican’s former top prosecutor on cases of clerical abuse, is currently in Osorno with Bertomeu, an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for a June 12-19 pastoral mission to the Chilean Dioceses of Osorno and Santiago in order to advance “the process of healing and reparation for victims of abuse” in Chile.
After spending two days in Santiago, where they led a day of formation on the guidelines to be followed in investigations into sexual abuse in the Church, the pair arrived in Osorno June 14, where they will stay until June 17, and will hold a number of meetings with different communities in the diocese.
Immediately after landing in Osorno Thursday, Scicluna and Bertomeu held meetings with two groups of local Catholics – the “Catholic Faithful of Osorno” and a group of lay men and women from the diocese.
On Friday the pair met with clergy from Osorno, including priests and deacons, as well as the communities of Santa Rosa Parish and the Parish of the Holy Spirit.
They will meet with another parish community Saturday, and that afternoon will speak with religious men and women from Osorno. The day will close with a second encounter at a parish, after which there will be time for adoration.
On Sunday, Scicluna and Bertomeu’s last day in Osorno before heading back to Santiago, they will celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of San Mateo, after which they will meet with all parish communities in the diocese to pray for peace and reconciliation.
Scicluna and Bertomeu will then go back to Santiago for two days before returning to Rome June 19.
Osorno has been at the center of the Chilean clerical abuse crisis ever since Pope Francis’s 2015 appointment of Juan Barros Madrid as the diocese’s bishop – a move that was met with heavy opposition due to accusations he had covered up the crimes of notorious Chilean abuser, Father Fernando Karadima.
Francis had initially defended Barros, saying he believed the accusations against him were “calumny” during a visit to Chile in January. However, after new evidence was presented and news of old evidence resurfaced following his trip, the pope in February sent Scicluna and Bertomeu to Chile to investigate, resulting in a 2,300 page report on the crisis which prompted the pope to pen a letter to Chilean bishops in April saying he had made “serious errors” in judging the case.
Since then, Francis has met with all Chilean bishops and two groups of Chilean abuse survivors at the Vatican.
On Monday the Vatican announced that Francis has accepted Barros’ resignation and that of two other Chilean bishops. Every active bishop in Chile submitted his resignation at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country’s bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.
Scicluna and Bertomeu, whose current visit to Santiago and Osorno coincided with the news of Barros’ resignation, have from the beginning stressed that they have come to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the pope, to provide formation on how to respond to abuse, and to listen.
In a June 13 press conference before heading to Osorno, Scicluna said that “to recognize and admit the whole truth, with all of its painful repercussions and consequences, is the point of departure for an authentic healing, both for the victim and the abuser. These brothers and sisters deserve our special attention and assistance.”
He also defended the papal nuncio to Chile, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, who has been accused of inaction when presented with abuse allegations, saying “we have a wonderful collaboration with the nuncio.”
In comments to Chilean media after landing in Osorno, Bertomeu backed Scicluna’s defense of Scapolo, saying “the nuncio has a very complicated role, because he has a role as a representative of the Holy Father before the Chilean state and then there are also actions which can also be easily misinterpreted,” La Cooperativa reports.
“I myself am aware that in any moment of the day I can do something which can be misinterpreted, so I think that the procedures of justice must be respected before condemning someone and one must be a little more sure,” he said, adding that “until now the nuncio has acted correctly.”