Pontiff begins shake-up in Chile over sex scandal


Pope Francis accepted Monday (June 11) the resignation of three Chilean bishops, including the controversial Juan Barros, following a child sex abuse scandal in Chile which has come to haunt his papacy.

It was not immediately clear if Monday's development meant the pope would reject the resignations of the other 31 bishops.

The pope accepted Barros' resignation despite previous attempts to defend the bishop.

Pope Francis' appointment of Barros to Osorno in 2015 was met with a wave of objections and calls for his resignation.

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Victims of the scandal hailed the removal of Barros, who has always denied allegations that he witnessed and covered up sexual abuse cases. Francis had summoned Chile's church leaders to Rome after realizing he had made "grave errors in judgment" about Barros, whom he had defended strongly during his troubled visit to Chile in January.

Some of the victims have accused Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, a key adviser to Francis, of ignoring and helping to cover up Karadima's abuses.

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"A new day has begun in Chile's Catholic Church!" tweeted Juan Carlos Cruz, the abuse survivor who had denounced Barros for years and pressed the Vatican to take action.

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Scicluna visited Chile in February and prepared a 2,300-page report enumerating "a series of absolutely reprehensible acts that have occurred in the Chilean church in relation to ... unacceptable abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse", Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos of Santiago said on May 18, when the 33 Chilean bishops offered their resignation en masse to Francis.

The Vatican in 2011 sentenced Karadima, a powerful preacher close to Chile's elite, to a lifetime of penance and prayer for his sex crimes.

The highest-profile of those leaving his post was Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, 61, who has been in the vortex of the abuse saga.

Pope Francis has promised Chilean Catholics scarred by a culture of clergy sexual abuse that "never again" would the Church ignore them or the cover-up of abuse in their country. Joining him is Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse who resigned from O'Malley's panel past year in frustration over the Vatican's resistance to listening to victims.

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The pope said sorry for unwittingly "wounding" Karadima's victims who say Barros, one of the charismatic Karadima's proteges', shielded the abuser from justice. Francis said he had misjudged Juan Barros and the events in Chile because he hadn't been given "truthful and balanced information". While the Pope has said removing bishops is a necessary step, he has also stressed an intent to tackle the root causes of the abuse problem which he believes goes beyond making personnel changes.