May 31, 2018 / 2:11 PM / 5 months ago

Pope sends clergy sexual abuse inspectors back to Chile

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis is sending his two top sexual abuse investigators back to Chile to gather more information about the crisis that has hit the Catholic Church there, the Vatican said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna celebrates Mass in Malta October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi Bertomeu, a Vatican official, will concentrate on the diocese of Osorno in southern Chile, seat of a bishop who has been most caught up in the scandal.

A statement said the purpose of the trip, due to start in the next few days, was to “move forward in the process of reparation, and healing for victims of abuse”.

The two prepared a 2,300-page report for the pope after speaking to victims, witnesses and other Church members earlier this year.

On May 18, all of Chile’s 34 bishops offered to resign en masse after attending a crisis meeting with the pope in the Vatican about the cover-up of sexual abuse in the south American nation.

Francis has not yet announced which resignations to accept, if any.

The scandal revolves around Father Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing boys in Santiago in the 1970s and 1980s. Now 87 and living in a nursing home in Chile, he has always denied any wrongdoing.

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis attends a meeting with faithful of the diocese of Rome at Saint John Lateran Basilica in Rome, Italy May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile/File Photo

Victims accused Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno of having witnessed the abuse but doing nothing to stop it. Barros, who was one of those who offered to stand down, has denied the allegations.

During his visit to Chile in January, Francis staunchly defended Barros, denouncing accusations against him as “slander”.

But days after returning to Rome, the pope, citing new information, dispatched Scicluna and Bertomeu, who is Spanish, to Chile.

Some of their findings were included in a damning 10-page document that was presented to the bishops when they came to Rome.

In it, the pope said he felt “shame” over the pressure put on people not to carry out full investigations into what had happened, saying some churchmen had been afraid to face their responsibilities and confront “the ramifications of evil”.

It also said documents had been destroyed.

Thursday’s Vatican statement also said the pope was preparing a letter addressed to all Catholics in Chile about the scandal.

In April, the pope hosted three non-clerical victims who said they were abused by Karadima and this weekend he will be meeting with priest who said they were abused by Karadima when they were young.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams

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