VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera met on Saturday in the Vatican, where they discussed the “painful wound caused by the sexual abuse of minors” committed by Catholic priests in the South American nation, vowing to take action against these crimes, as well as against efforts to cover them up.
Just as Piñera was having lunch with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Pope announced the defrocking of two former Chilean bishops accused of sexually abusing minors.
Former bishops Jose Francisco Cox, 85, and Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez, 54, were “dismissed from the clerical state” by the Pope after having been subject to an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
After his meeting with Francis, Piñera told reporters that they discussed “the difficult situation that the church is going through” and that they hoped “a renewal” could occur in the Catholic church.
“We discussed the difficult situation that the church is going through in Chile, and we agreed on the hope that a renewal can occur in the church to regain the affection and proximity of the people of God, so that the church can continue to play an important role in our country,” Piñera said.
The Vatican press office said in a statement that the Pope and the Chilean president also discussed “the situation in the country, particularly regarding the defense of life.”
The issue of Venezuelan immigrants in Chile was also addressed, the Vatican said.
“The Pope is very concerned about migration,” Piñera said, adding that Francis “is well informed about Chilean policies on this issue, including family reunification visas for Haitians and democratic responsibility visas for Venezuelans.”
Francis also expressed his concern “about the situation affecting Venezuela, Nicaragua and other countries on our continent,” Piñera said.
As the two heads of state were exchanging gifts, Francis told the Chilean president that he hoped his administration “will be of peace,” to which Piñera responded “peace is the way.”
After his audience with the Pope, Piñera met with Pietro Parolin once again, with whom he is expected to discuss the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Chilean Catholic church, as well as Francis’s efforts to renew the clergy in the South American nation.