OSORNO, Chile – Some 600 people gathered Saturday in front of the cathedral in the southern Chilean town of Osorno to protest against Fr. Juan Barros as he assumed the position of bishop of the diocese, because he is perceived to have covered up another priest’s sexual abuse of minors.
Many of the protesters, dressed in black and carrying hundreds of black balloons, waited for the arrival of Fr. Barros, who had to enter through a back door to avoid the booing.
San Mateo Cathedral in Osorno, a city located 942 kilometers (585 miles) south of Santiago, was cordoned off at sunrise by police, who failed, however, to prevent scores of demonstrators from entering the cathedral grounds throwing things and shouting “Pedophile priest!”
Nonetheless, Barros said Mass under normal conditions.
The naming of Juan Barros by Pope Francis was met from the beginning with rejection both at a political level and by the Catholic community itself, which in Chile constitutes some 68 percent of the population.
The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts also issued a communique expressing its dismay at the appointment, which, in its opinion, “did not take sufficiently into account his involvement in the accusations of abuse against Fr. Fernando Karadima.”
Juan Barros is one of the four members of the bishopric who were trained by Karadima, a priest who was found guilty in 2011 by the Vatican of committing sexual abuse of minors and who was ordered to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penitence and to never again exercise any act of the priesthood in public.