Abuse in the spotlight

Abuse in the spotlight

The abuse scandal in Chile has dominated domestic political debate for weeks. He was also the dominant theme of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's visit to the Vatican his.

Pope Francis' relationship with conservative leaders on his home continent is often seen as rather undercooled. With Argentina's President Mauricio Macri, for example, Francis has so far found little common ground, but he maintains a lively exchange with Bolivia's socialist President Evo Morales.

This weekend, Chile's President Sebastian Pinera, a conservative Latin American president, is coming to the Vatican, and the pope could use his help in the current difficult situation. In Pinera's home country, an abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has dominated the headlines for months. More precisely, since the Pope's visit to Chile at the beginning of the year. By then, however, Francis had little time for the politician who had just been elected to office.

Pinera comes as a critic of the church

There was only one brief meeting with Pinera during the visit. For protocol reasons, it was said at the time. For the handover of Michelle Bachelet, now UN Commissioner for Human Rights, had not yet taken place following the elections. The Chilean press noted the brief meeting on the sidelines of the program in astonishment and wondered why Pinera was not given more attention.

In the meantime, the signs have changed. Pinera comes to the Vatican as a critic of the church and the winner of a long-running legal battle with Bolivia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In this matter, Morales had repeatedly tried to get Francis on his side, which was followed suspiciously in Chile.

The Hague, however, ruled a few days ago that Chile does not have to negotiate with Bolivia over access to the sea. The pope had proposed a fraternal dialogue. The court recommended the same, but without legally binding effect.

Abuse scandal will be at the forefront

When Pinera meets the pope on Saturday morning, however, the abuse scandal in Chile will be foremost on his mind. Pinera has been serving as head of state since March, having previously held the position from 2010 to 2014. It is his first visit with Francis. In 2011, he was with the latter's predecessor Benedict XVI. (2005-2013) guest.

In the current scandal, Pinera sharply criticized the church. It had made serious mistakes in dealing with abuse cases, the head of government said in July. It pained him that high dignitaries had known about the acts but had concealed them.

Only recently Pinera reiterated this criticism. Something like this must never be repeated again, he demanded. An uncle of the president, Bernardino Pinera Carvallo, is archbishop emeritus of La Serena. The now 103-year-old was head of the Archdiocese of Serena from 1983 to 1990 and president of the Chilean Bishops' Conference from 1984 to 1988.

Cardinal Ezzati remains silent on accusations

At the center of the Chilean abuse scandal is the now 88-year-old priest Fernando Karadima, who was convicted of sexual offenses in 2011. Several bishops emerged from his circle, among them Juan Barros of Osorno, who is accused of complicity by Karadima's victims.

Pope Francis had sent a special envoy to Chile to clarify the accusations and asked the entire Chilean Bishops' Conference to come to the Vatican. Meanwhile, Francis accepted six other requests for resignation from bishops in addition to Barros' resignation.

Recently, the two cardinals Ricardo Ezzati and Francisco Errazuriz also moved to the center of criticism. They are accused of covering up abuse cases in the archdiocese of Santiago. Both reject the accusations. Ezzati chose to remain silent on the matter during questioning by prosecutors.

By Tobias Kaufer

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