Protesters target Pope’s man in Chile
Riot police were out in force yesterday when angry crowds gathered in Osorno to protest against the ordination of a bishop accused of covering up sex crimes.
Police had to escort Barros out of the church after his ordination, which was attended by only 15 of the country’s 35 bishops and about 20 of the 35 priests in the diocese some 580 miles (930 kilometers) south of Santiago.
While Barros himself is not accused of molestation, at least three victims of sex abuse say he was present when they were molested by the Rev Fernando Karadima in the 1980s and 90s.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a 51-year-old journalist who is one of the accusers, said:
I hold the Pope responsible. As victims, we had become used to the slaps in the face by the Chilean hierarchy, but we never expected a slap in the face from the Pope.
Barros had long declined to comment publicly on allegations against him. However he sent a letter to priests in the diocese saying he did not know about Karadima’s abuses when they happened. He wrote:
I never had knowledge of, or could have imagined, the serious abuses that this priest committed against the victims.
The Pope confirmed his decision to appoint Barros after he recently met with him.
More than 1,300 church members in Osorno, along with some 30 priests from the diocese and 51 of Chile’s 120 congress members sent letters to Francis last month urging him to rescind the appointment.
A Vatican investigation found Karadima, one of Chile’s most prominent priests, guilty of sex abuse in 2011 and sentenced the now 84-year-old priest to a cloistered life of “penitence and prayer”.
Criminal charges against him were thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired.
Cruz said that he and another teen boy would lie down on Karadima’s bed, one resting his head at the man’s shoulder, another sitting near his feet. The priest would kiss the boys and grope them, he said, while Barros watched.