ROME – Claiming that it’s due to the outbreak in Italy of coronavirus, the Mexican bishops’ conference announced Friday that a planned visit by two top papal aides to address a local clerical sexual abuse crisis has been “postponed.”

According to the statement released Friday afternoon, the mission of Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Father Jordi Bertomeu has been “postponed” because the Holy See has “suspended all activity abroad.”

“To be carried out from March 20 to 27, [the investigation] has been postponed due to the health situation in Italy, which has already touched the Vatican City, concerning the coronavirus (Covid-19),” the statement says.

Traditionally, a suspension of activities abroad means that the Vatican will not send personnel abroad for missions or lectures. though it doesn’t imply the recall of ambassadors and other personnel working in foreign embassies and other assignments.

The Vatican announced Friday that it had found its first case of coronavirus, and the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement saying it has informed all participants in a February event on Artificial intelligence after one person who took part tested positive for the disease.

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Signing the short communique on the suspension of the Mexico investigation are Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez, president of the bishops’ conference, and Alfonso Miranda, secretary general. They added that when a new date is set, “after this contingency passes,” it will be announced.

In the meantime, the bishops request those who are interested to reach the office of the papal representative in the country, technically called the nunciature, to send an email to

Sources in Mexico told Crux that, despite coronavirus being the official reason given for delaying the investigation, some Mexican bishops had voiced opposition to the Scicluna and Bertomeu mission after it was announced Monday. Observers from both Mexico and the Vatican have told Crux they estimate some fifty percent of bishops in the country have mishandled abuse allegations.

Last year, Cabrera told a conference organized by CEPROME, the center for child protection of Mexico’s Pontifical University, that “we bishops need to acknowledge the mistakes of the past: We weren’t conscious of the seriousness of the issue, and the solutions we gave weren’t the right ones.”

He also said that every bishop who has served for more than ten years needs to come forward and acknowledge they have made mistakes when handling abuse allegations.

Mexico has the world’s second largest Catholic population, after Brazil. In 2006 it had to deal with the aftermath of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ who was sentenced to a life of “prayer and penance” after credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors, among other offenses, were made against him. Scicluna was the top prosecutor in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time.

Today, Scicluna serves as the archbishop of Malta and the adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with allegations of the clerical abuse of minors. As of last week, Scicluna is also a member of a new Vatican anti-abuse task force.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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