Bish­ops sum­moned over abuse coverup

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - WORLD NEWS - NI­COLE WIN­FIELD

VAT­I­CAN CITY — The Vat­i­can in­ves­ti­ga­tor sent to take tes­ti­mony from Chilean sex abuse vic­tims said Thurs­day the Holy See is “mak­ing his­tory” with Pope Fran­cis’ emer­gency sum­mit of the Chilean hi­er­ar­chy.

The Rev. Jordi Ber­tomeu, a Spa­niard in the Vat­i­can of­fice that han­dles abuse cases, told re­porters he ex­pected “im­por­tant” mea­sures to be taken to try to re­pair the Chilean church.

“What is sure is that we are fac­ing a very, very par­tic­u­lar mo­ment for the uni­ver­sal church, not only for Chile,” he said out­side the priests’ res­i­dence where the Chilean bish­ops are stay­ing. “It’s not nor­mal to call here an en­tire bish­ops’ con­fer­ence. There­fore, if I were you, I would ex­pect mea­sures and con­clu­sions that will be im­por­tant.”

“We are mak­ing his­tory,” he added.

Fran­cis sum­moned the Chilean bish­ops’ con­fer­ence to Rome for four days of meet­ings and prayer af­ter ad­mit­ting that he had made “grave er­rors in judg­ment” in the case of a Chilean bishop ac­cused of wit­ness­ing and ig­nor­ing abuse. The sum­mit re­calls sim­i­lar ones when Amer­i­can bish­ops in 2002, and then Ir­ish bish­ops in 2010, were hauled be­fore the popes of the time for a dressing-down over their dis­mal han­dling of abuse cases.

Vic­tims of Chile’s most no­to­ri­ous preda­tor priest, Rev. Fer­nando Karadima, had placed Bishop Juan Bar­ros at the scene of their abuse — a charge he has long de­nied. Fran­cis strongly de­fended Bar­ros dur­ing his Jan­uary trip to Chile, draw­ing scorn from Chileans and even his own top sex abuse ad­viser.

Af­ter re­turn­ing home, Fran­cis sent Ber­tomeu and the Vat­i­can’s top abuse ex­pert to get to the bot­tom of the scan­dal, and they came back with a much broader view of the scale of abuse and coverup in the church, pre­sent­ing Fran­cis with a 2,300-page dossier.

For years, sex abuse vic­tims have blasted the Chilean hi­er­ar­chy for dis­cred­it­ing their claims, pro­tect­ing abusers, mov­ing them around rather than re­port­ing them to po­lice and then hand­ing out light sen­tences when church sanc­tions are im­posed.

At the start of the sum­mit, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Chilean bish­ops’ con­fer­ence said they were pre­pared to ac­cept what­ever mea­sures Fran­cis proposed, in­clud­ing bishop res­ig­na­tions, re­forms of Chile’s sem­i­nar­ies and eco­nomic repa­ra­tion for vic­tims.

ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rev. Jordi Ber­tomeu, who works in the Vac­ti­can of­fice that han­dles abuse cases, says Pope Fran­cis, above, is mak­ing his­tory with an emer­gency sum­mit over sexual abuse in Chile.

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