Pope Francis sends Vatican expert to Chile to investigate sex abuse cover-up claims

Pope Francis will reportedly task the Vatican's most respected sex crimes expert to look into claims that a bishop in Chile had covered up for a pedophile priest who was sanctioned in 2011 for abusing minors.

(REUTERS / Claudio Santana)Pope Francis waves to people as he arrives at O'Higgins park where he will lead a mass, in Santiago, Chile. January 22, 2018.

On Jan 30, the Vatican revealed that Charles Scicluna, the archbishop of Malta, would be sent to Chile to investigate the claims that Chilean bishop Right Rev Juan Barros had covered up for Rev. Fernando Karadima's sexual abuse crimes. The announcement came in the wake of Pope Francis' papal visit to Chile, which was met with controversy over the case, The Guardian detailed.

Karadima's victims had shared that Barros and the other priests did not do anything even though they had seen him kissing young children and knew about the abuses. After he was sanctioned by the Vatican, Chilean bishops pushed for the resignation of Barros and two other bishops trained by Karadima, but Pope Francis blocked the plan and said there was no proof against those priests.

In January 2015, a rift was caused within the dioceses when Pope Francis assigned Barros to be the head of the diocese of Osorno. The issue resurfaced during the pontiff's visit to Chile, where he said the accusations against the embattled bishop were mere "slander."

However, Pope Francis later apologized to the victims of clergy sex abuse for offending them with his defense of Barros. During his flight to Rome on Jan. 21, he said he realized that he had wrongly implied that the victims' accusations required concrete proof, Catholic News Service relayed.

"To hear that the pope says to their face, 'Bring me a letter with proof,' is a slap in the face," said Pope Francis.

"Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don't have it," he added. "Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous."

Nevertheless, Pope Francis stood behind his view on Barros' innocence. He acknowledged that covering up for an abuse was wrong but noted that it was also a crime to punish the bishop without evidence.

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