SANTIAGO – The Episcopal Conference of Chile pledged on Tuesday that it will support the decision of Pope Francis to send a bishop to the South American country to discover any possible information about Bishop Juan Barros’s involvement in cases of sexual abuse, but refused to take any immediate measures against the cleric.
“A foreign bishop has been designated...to learn the details and speak to those who can provide information about the situation of Bishop Barros, but we can’t say there is necessarily an investigation underway against him,” Episcopal Conference spokesman Jaime Coiro told a press conference in Santiago..
Archbishop Charles Scicluna will be charged with the investigation, the Vatican said Tuesday morning in a statement.
Scicluna is currently archbishop of Malta and was made a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to examine appeals by clerics accused of “delicta graviora,” including sexual abuse.
Juan Barros Madrid, named bishop in March 2015 by Pope Francis, has been charged with covering up cases of sexual abuse committed by Fernando Karadima when the latter was the parish priest in El Bosque, a well-to-do district of Santiago.
The pontiff himself showed support for Barros during his visit to Chile between Jan. 15-18, and called the accusations against the bishop “calumnies” since there was not “a shred of evidence against him.”
But later Francis admitted he was wrong and apologized to the victims for hurting them, while at the same time he emphasized his position of “zero tolerance” for the cleric’s involvement in these cases.
According to Coiro, the pope’s decision shows “what an open heart he has” to name a person “with a profound knowledge about the most evil of sins” to discover any possible new details about Bishop Barros.
For that reason, he believes that Scicluna’s visit offers “sufficient guarantees” to make sure all the relevant information that comes out will be in the hands of a “third party who will ponder what to do with it.”