Pope replaces cardinal during worsening sex abuse cover-up

Pope Francis has accepted Chilean Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati’s resignation and immediately named a temporary replacement.

Ezzati’s resignation came after he was placed under criminal investigation in the country’s spiralling church sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

Spanish-born Capuchin friar and current bishop of Copiapo, Chile, Monsignor Celestino Aos Braco will replace Ezzati in the interim.

Ezzati, 77, is one of the 33 Chilean bishops who all offered their resignation to Francis last May amid accusations of cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests.

To date, Francis has accepted the resignations of eight bishops.

Ezzati is perceived as responsible for years of silence regarding 251 alleged crimes.

He denies that he had led a cover-up.

“I can say, with my head held high, that all the complaints that have reached the complaints office that I created in 2011 have been investigated, or are being investigated”, he says.

“It’s not enough to say that I have covered up (abuse), you have to prove it.”

Ezzati had been linked to at least three cases of cover-ups.

One involved alleged abuse committed by former archdiocese chancellor Oscar Munoz who was in charge of the church’s sexual abuse investigation files, and is currently under criminal investigation and under house arrest.

The Chilean abuse cases stretch back to the 1940s with the most recent being that of a homeless man who claims to have been drugged and raped by a priest in a dormitory inside the Cathedral of Santiago in 2015.

The accuser told the police he returned once to the Cathedral, where Ezzati hears confession from time to time, to tell him his story. He said he received a hug from the archbishop and was given the equivalent of $45 in Chilean pesos by another priest.

When asked about the homeless man, Ezzati told a local television station early this month: “I don’t know him.”

Victims rights activists say Francis’s acceptance of Ezzati’s resignation is a positive step.

“Cardinal Ezzati represents everything that we have fought against for years, especially the culture of abuse and cover-up,” said Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murrillo in a statement.

The three are abuse survivors who have helped lead a campaign pressuring the Vatican to take action.


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