SANTIAGO – Special envoys of Pope Francis to Chile wrapped up their pastoral mission to the South American country this Tuesday with a call for a thorough investigation of reports of the sexual abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy.
“Investigation is essential to justice. We must do justice to the victims for the good of the country and that of the church,” the archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, told a press conference in Santiago.
Scicluna and the Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu closed Tuesday their seven-day visit to Santiago and Osorno, during which they met with hundreds of people, including abuse victims, Catholic communities, priests, nuns and friars.
“It has been a beautiful experience to share with different communities full of men and women who, though suffering for what they have done, opened their hearts to us and are ready to take the path to reconciliation,” the Maltese archbishop said.
Scicluna said that during last week’s meetings he received a petition that the church follow the road of truth, justice and reparation for the victims, which he said is also the wish of Pope Francis.
The visit of the papal envoys came in the context of a serious crisis that the Chilean church is going through because of multiple reports by victims of sexual abuse allegedly committed by members of the clergy for decades in different dioceses around the country.
The situation got worse last January during the pope’s visit to Chile, when he publicly defended Bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up the sexual abuse of minors committed by the influential priest Fernando Karadima.
The pope retracted his words soon afterwards and sent Scicluna and Bertomeu to the South American country for the first time to investigate what led to the accusations against Barros and others.
The result of that first visit was an extensive report that Scicluna delivered to Pope Francis, who after reading it admitted he had been misinformed and begged pardon of the abuse victims.