SANTIAGO – Chilean priests and laypersons touched by the sexual-abuse scandal centered on the Rev. Fernando Karadima announced on Wednesday that they will travel to Rome at the invitation of Pope Francis to contribute to the “restructuring” of the Catholic Church.
At a press conference, the Revs. Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, Alejandro Vial Amunategui and Eugenio de la Fuente provided details of their visit to the Vatican, set to take place from June 1-3.
The meeting aims to provide “a voice to those who have suffered abuse or have provided support to victims of abuse,” one of the priests said.
Revs. Javier Barros Bascuñan and Sergio Cobo Montalba, as well as four other individuals – who wish to remain anonymous – will also be part of the delegation.
“It is a joy to be able to tell what these past 20 years have meant,” said Astaburuaga, who listened to Juan Carlos Cruz and James Hamilton’s accusations against Karadima. “As a priest, to have been close to the victims, to listen to them ... It is a great consolation to see the pope. I am immensely grateful.”
This will mark the second time that Pope Francis will hold a meeting with the victims of Bishop Karadima, who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of committing sexual abuse and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance.
The priests restated their call for a “zero tolerance” policy when dealing with all the types of abuse that the pope enumerated in a prior letter, and they supported judicial sanctions for guilty clergymen as well as the end of the “power structure that has allowed all this abuse to happen,” said De la Fuente.
Pope Francis had initially protected Bishop Juan Barros – who covered up Karadima’s crimes – but later apologized to the victims and summoned the 34 Chilean church representatives to Rome to examine and discuss potential solutions.