RANCAGUA, Chile – The archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, who has been accused of covering up sexual abuse cases in the Catholic church, arrived Wednesday morning at Chile’s O’Higgins regional district attorney’s office, where he had been summoned, though he used his right to silence.
Ezzati arrived at the headquarters of the O’Higgins district attorney’s office in Rancagua, some 90 km (56 mi) south of the capital, but departed less than an hour afterward without speaking to reporters, who were awaiting outside.
The cardinal’s defense team confirmed that Ezzati used his right to silence, refusing to declare before prosecutor Emiliano Arias, adding that they were preparing for a hearing scheduled for Friday, during which authorities will discuss the dismissal of the case against the archbishop.
Ezzati’s lawyer, Hugo Rivera, told reporters that the decision to use the right to silence was taken because “there isn’t any serious evidence to summon the cardinal.”
“In consequence, we requested on September 14 that the case be dismissed,” Rivera said.
The archbishop was summoned by the O’Higgins district attorney’s office to declare on Aug. 21 after being accused of covering up sexual abuse cases in Chile’s Catholic church, but the hearing was postponed until Oct. 3.
Even though Ezzati refused to declare before the prosecutor, the cardinal’s lawyer insisted that did not mean he was “scurrying away.”
“We aren’t scurrying away. The cardinal decided not to declare until we discuss the dismissal of the case,” Rivera said.
Ezzati is one of seven Chilean bishops who are being investigated by Chile’s attorney general’s office regarding the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic church.
According to records released by prosecutors in August, there are currently 119 ongoing investigations against 167 people linked to the church, while 178 sexual abuse victims have been identified, 79 of whom were minors when they were abused.