ROME – Two papal investigators who were in Chile this week to look deeper into the clerical sexual abuse crisis that has been rocking the Church closed their pastoral visit saying that justice must be done for victims, “for the good of the country and also for the good of the Church.”
“The victims who come forth with allegations of abuse must always be the guiding principle in ecclesiastical procedures,” said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna as he was preparing to leave Chile on Tuesday.
Speaking from the Vatican embassy in Chile hours before departing the country, Scicluna also reiterated the commitment from the Vatican to “recognize and admit to the entire truth, with all its pains, repercussions and consequences. That is the point of departure for any authentic healing, both for the victim and for who commits the abuses.”
Together with Spanish Father Jordi Bertomeu, Scicluna arrived in Chile June 12 for a pastoral visit that concluded on Tuesday. It was their second visit to the country, both at the express request of Pope Francis, to look particularly into the case of Bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up for his mentor, infamous pedophile Father Fernando Karadima.
Scicluna said that that the pope shares the request made to them by those they encountered for the Church to “advance in paths of truth, justice and reparation.”
“We regret that we were unable to personally speak with everyone,” Scicluna said in a statement, adding that they were committed to responding to those communications in writing “soon.”
To guarantee that all the survivors of clerical sexual abuse are heard, they also announced they were setting up a “listening service” run by several members of the National Commission for the Prevention of Abuse, that will receive testimonies both on the phone (+994950519) and through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We have come to express the Church’s commitment to the search for the truth, charity and justice,” Scicluna said.
The two divided the days of their visit between Santiago, the Chilean capital, and the southern diocese of Osorno. Francis had appointed Barros to this diocese in 2015 and stood firm in his decision even during his visit to Chile in January. However, soon after he returned to Rome, he decided to send Scicluna and Bertomeu to look into the allegations.
The two men returned to Rome with a 2,300 page report, a product of 64 interviews, that has led to Francis holding three meetings in Rome, two with the victims of Karadima and those who’ve supported them for the past decades, and one with the entire bishops’ conference. After three days in Rome, all the bishops gave their resignation to the pope, the final decision regarding their future being in his hands.
On Sunday, as they closed their visit to Osorno, where they spoke with the local clergy, religious communities and also the laity, Scicluna said the pope had tasked him with “personally” apologizing for the suffering he had caused to the diocese.
The apology came during a Mass that served both as a closure to the visit and as a welcoming of the new apostolic administrator, appointed after the pope accepted Barros’ resignation last week.
According to the archbishop, once the top papal prosecutor in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which handles the cases of clerical sexual abuse, during the days of their visit the two spoke with “hundreds” of people.
“It’s been a beautiful experience to share with the various communities, full of men and women- who even carrying their wounds- have opened their hearts and were predisposed to dialogue and to initiate a path of reconciliation,” he said.
Before closing his remarks, Scicluna once again thanked the diocese of Osorno and all those who “trusted us and our mission and who offered their contribution. A big thank you to everyone, for the good will, for the love of the Church, and for the great desire to live reconciled.”