Pope accepts resignation of Bishop Juan Barros of Chile

Pope Francis has accepted Bishop Juan Barros’s resignation.

Anti-abuse activists called the move the Vatican’s first concrete step in Chile to purge a corrupt church hierarchy implicated in decades of sexual mistreatment and ignoring victims.

Barros of Osorno, Chile, has been at the centre of a sex abuse scandal for several years, having been accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by convicted paedophile Father Fernando Karadima in the 1980s and 1990s.

Francis appointed him bishop of Osorno in 2015, despite the objections of local Catholics, his own sex abuse prevention advisers and some of Chile’s other bishops. Over 1,000 people wrote to him protesting Barros’s appointment.

They questioned Barros’s suitability as he had been in charge of Karadima and had been accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

Francis became involved in the Barros scandal when he defended him during his visit to Chile in January.

“The day I see proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. There is not a single piece of evidence against him. It is all slander. Is that clear?” Francis said at the time.

He later apologised to victims, saying: “I apologise to them if I hurt them without realising it, but it was a wound that I inflicted without meaning to.”

A Vatican official says the Pope’s acceptance of Barros’s resignation represented a first step towards re-ordering the Church in Chile.

He says Francis is still considering the positions of the other prelates.

In the meantime, he has accepted resignations from two other Chilean bishops because they have reached the retirement age of 75.

Last month Chile’s 34 bishops offered to resign en masse after meeting Francis at the Vatican about allegations of covering up sexual abuse.

This is the first time in 200 years the resignation of an entire delegation of bishops has occurred.

“Today begins a new day for the Catholic Church in Chile and hopefully the world,” Juan Carlos Cruz, the key witness in the Barros abuse case, said on Twitter.

“We hope this is the beginning of the end of this culture of abuse and cover-up in the Church. Emotional but great day!”

Francis has created a Vatican committee to fight sexual abuse and help victims.



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