Pope Francis has sent a Vatican investigator to verify allegations that a bishop had been complicit in sexual abuse crimes committed by a priest, BBC reported. Vatican expert Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta will “listen to those who want to submit information in their possession”.
The Pope sparked a controversy and protests when, after meeting victims of the alleged abuse, he claimed that Bishop Juan Barros was innocent and accused complainants of committing slander.
The Pope had said: “The day I see proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. There is not a single piece of evidence against him. It is all slander. Is that clear?” Critics have opposed the Vatican’s decision to name Barros a bishop in 2015.
The pontiff later apologised for his comments. He also publicly sought forgiveness for the rape and molestation of children by priests in Chile.
Complainants alleged that Barros was present when a priest, Fernando Karadima, molested several boys in Santiago since the 1980s. They have demanded that the Vatican reconsider its decision to let Barros retain the title of Bishop as well as initiate action against him.
The investigator’s visit has been prompted by new information that has surfaced in the case, BBC quoted a Vatican statement as saying.
The Vatican had found Karadima guilty and sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer”. The accused, however, is yet to face criminal prosecution in Chile.