Searches and lawsuit

Searches and lawsuit

Abuse scandal in Chile: authorities search offices of bishops' conference © Luis Hidalgo

The judiciary has again searched premises of the Catholic Church in Chile. Meanwhile, a foundation formulated a lawsuit against two Chilean cardinals, accusing them of cover-up.

In Chile, investigators on Tuesday (local time) searched the offices of the Chilean bishops' conference in the capital Santiago as part of the investigation into the abuse scandal and seized files. According to Chilean media, the conference is to deal with investigations into the case of the religious order of the Marist school brothers. There clergymen allegedly abused seminarians.

Officials from the department against sexual crimes entered the offices around noon accompanied by prosecutor Raul Guzman, the portal "24 Horas" reported. Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of abuse in the Chilean church who fought for years to bring abuse cases in the church to light, commented that he didn't want to imagine what it would be like there: "It's like Ali Baba's cave."

Lawsuit over cover-up

Meanwhile, Chile's embassy to the Holy See sent the Vatican an official request for access to the extensive investigation report by the special investigator sent to Chile by Pope Francis, Archbishop Charles Siciluna (Malta). The daily "La Tercera" reported that the "Foundation for Trust," which represents the rights of abuse victims, filed a lawsuit Tuesday for cover-up against Cardinals Francisco Javier Errazuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, among others.

Ezzati to be questioned by investigating authorities next week. His lawyer said Ezzati was innocent of the charges. A complaint of sexual abuse has been filed against two other clergy of the Archdiocese of Santiago on the part of the Foundation.

Papal tribute

At a special plenary meeting, the Chilean bishops recently discussed how to proceed in the scandal of sexual abuse of minors and decided, among other things, to give the national ecclesiastical abuse commission further powers. In the process, they appointed lawyer Ana Maria Celis Brunet as its new head. The previous chairman, Bishop Gonzalez, was controversial among abuse victims.

Pope Francis had received Brunet at the Vatican last week. He also praised the Chilean Bishops' Conference for its recent steps in the abuse scandal. The bishops' resolutions were "realistic and concrete," the pope praised in a handwritten letter to the conference president, Bishop Santiago Silva. He expressed certainty that the decisions would be beneficial to the entire process, according to the letter published by the bishops' conference.

Francis calls for 'thorough new beginning'

Chilean bishops had agreed on several points during their five-day special meeting. This includes the obligation for each bishop to cooperate with the prosecutor's office. Investigations into sexual misconduct to be made public in future.

Pope Francis, against the backdrop of the scandal, had demanded a thoroughgoing new start in Chile's church in a letter at the end of May. In the letter, he accused the bishops of promoting a "culture of abuse" and a "system of cover-up".

Several resignations

The abuse scandal in Chile has been making headlines for months. The focus is on Fernando Karadima, now 88, a priest who was convicted of sexual offenses in 2011. Several bishops emerged from his circle, including Juan Barros of Osorno, who is accused by victims of Karadima of complicity.

Pope Francis had sent a special envoy to Chile to clarify the allegations and summoned the entire national bishops' conference to the Vatican. Meanwhile, Francis accepted four other bishops' resignations in addition to Barros' resignation.

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