SANTIAGO – The Spanish bishop named by Pope Francis to take charge of the Santiago archdiocese amid a scandal over clerical sexual abuse in Chile said Friday that the pontiff and the Vatican hierarchy want to collaborate in the investigation.
Celestino Aos, who was appointed March 23 following the resignation of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, spoke on returning to Chile after a 10-day trip to Rome, during which he met with the pope and other Vatican authorities.
“At a personal level I came away with a totally positive balance. They went beyond my expectations, I was well received everywhere and they were really very cordial,” the bishop said.
“Everywhere I went I found a wish to collaborate, to help us. They know we’re going through some complicated, difficult, painful situations, because there is no manual with ready-made solutions. And they are willing to help us as much as they can,” he said.
Aos said he perceived in the pope and the other people he met with “a desire to cooperate until the truth is out and it’s possible to seek justice” for the victims of sexual abuse.
“We want the truth known, and if there have indeed been citizens who have committed crimes, that those people are investigated and punished. We are not asking for privileges of any kind,” he said.
In this process of seeking the truth, Aos said, the victims play a fundamental role and must help guide the Church in the investigations, beyond the investigations led by the justice system.
“We hope they (the victims) collaborate because this is not a job for the pope, or mine as an apostolic administrator, or of priests and bishops, it is a job for each and every Christian and person of good will,” the bishop said.
Aos said in reply to reporters that he had not read nor brought to Chile the Scicluna report, a document of more than 2,000 pages prepared by the archbishop of Malta and undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Charles Scicluna, in which he compiled the complaints and testimonies of Chilean abuse victims.
Chilean prosecutors are investigating 219 members of the clergy in 158 cases of sexual abuse against 241 victims, of whom 123 were minors at the time.