Pope sends Mgr Scicluna to examine Bishop Barros case in Chile
Pope Francis has sent Maltese Archbishop Scicluna to Chile to investigate allegations against a bishop accused of covering up clergy crimes against minors there.
The decision was announced yesterday by the Vatican after new information emerged about the case of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, according to the Holy See Press Office. The nature of the information was not disclosed but the press statement said the archbishop would “hear those who have expressed their willingness to submit elements in their possession.”
The news comes as a surprise. During his recent visit to Chile, when the Pope was asked about the case, he said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of his former mentor Fr Fernando Karadima, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.” Just last week, the pope told reporters abroad that he was sure Barros was innocent and that the Vatican had received no concrete evidence against him. Unless “credible evidence” is brought against Barros, PopeFrancis said, he would remain in his place. The findings of Archbishop Scicluna will therefore be widely anticipated.
Fr Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing teenage boys over many years. Karadima was sent to a life of “prayer and penance” and prohibited from public exercise of his priestly ministry. Barros said he was unaware of any wrongdoing. Controversy grew in 2015 when Pope Francis appointed Bishop Barros to lead the diocese of Osorno, triggering protests by some clerics in Chile and a riot during the bishop’s installation service.
Scicluna is the Vatican’s chief investigator on child abuse, with an established reputation within the Church, having earlier uncovered evidence of sexual abuse against the late founder of the conservative religious order the Legionaries of Christ. He previously served as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) under the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The Promoter of Justice is often referred to as the CDF’s “chief prosecutor” and is charged with investigating very serious canon-law offenses, including crimes against the sanctity of the Eucharist, violations of the seal of confession and allegations of the abuse of minors by clergy.
Mgr Scicluna is also President of the College for the examination of appeals (in matters of delicta graviora) at the Ordinary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.