Houston Chronicle

Chilean bishop tied to abuse allowed to resign

Pope apologizes for blocking Barros from leaving the church

- By Jason Horowitz

ROME — In January, Pope Francis deeply offended survivors of clerical abuse and threatened the reputation of his pontificat­e when he defended a Chilean bishop from the “calumny” of victims and said that he had refused the bishop’s offers of resignatio­n.

On Monday, Francis accepted the resignatio­n of that bishop, Juan Barros of Osorno.

The resignatio­n of Barros and of two other bishops in Chile is a remarkable reversal for Francis. Only months ago, the Chilean scandal represente­d an enormous threat to the pope’s credibilit­y. Now, abuse victims and their advocates express hope that a new era is beginning in which bishops and the church hierarchy will be held accountabl­e for covering up and ignoring abuse.

“Today begins a new day for the Catholic Church in Chile and hopefully the world,” Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, one of Chile’s most notorious abusive priests, wrote on Twitter on Monday.

The priest was a mentor of Barros, who Cruz says witnessed his abuse and did nothing. The pope also accepted the resignatio­ns of Cristián Caro Cordero, bishop of Puerto Montt, and Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar, bishop of Valparaíso, both of whom are 75, the mandatory retirement age for bishops in the church. Barros, who is accused of witnessing and covering up abuse, is 61. He denies the allegation­s against him.

Francis had moved Barros from Chile’s military diocese to the southern diocese of Osorno in 2015, a decision that prompted outrage from local Catholics and from victims of Karadima, whom the Vatican found guilty of sexually abusing minors in 2011.

At the time, the country’s largely Socialist-led Parliament sought to block the installmen­t of Barros. That move apparently prompted Francis to say, in recorded remarks, “Think with the head, don’t be led around by the nose by these leftists.”

Pressure on Francis continued to build. He then sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigat­or, to talk to Karadima’s victims in the United States and in Chile about Barros. Scicluna spoke to 64 people and gave Francis a 2,300-page report that led the pope to issue an extraordin­ary apology.

“I have made serious errors of judgment and perception of the situation, especially due to lack of truthful and balanced informatio­n,” Francis wrote.

 ?? Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press ?? The resignatio­ns of Bishop Juan Barros and two others were accepted Monday.
Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press The resignatio­ns of Bishop Juan Barros and two others were accepted Monday.

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