Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa © Romano Siciliani (KNA)

Chilean abuse victims James Hamilton, Juan Carlos Cruz and Jose Andres Murillo have made serious accusations against one of the Pope's closest advisors: The cardinal in question had blocked the abuse investigation.

Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz prevented prosecution of sexual offenses for more than five years, James Hamilton told reporters in Rome on Wednesday. He, along with Juan Carlos Cruz and Jose Andres Murillo, had told Pope Francis about their experiences with abuse and cover-ups in the Chilean church during a meeting at the Vatican that lasted several days.

Been informed about sexual offenses

The 84-year-old Errazuriz is a member of the Council of Cardinals, which advises Pope Francis on curia reform. From 1998 until his age-related resignation in 2010, he was archbishop of the Chilean capital's bishopric of Santiago. For several years he presided over the Chilean Bishops' Conference and the Latin American Bishops' Council CELAM.

Hamilton said Errazuriz had been aware of sexual misconduct by priest Fernando Karadima since 2002. While church prosecutor Eliseo Escudero said the allegations were credible, investigations by Errazuriz had been blocked. It was not until 2009, with a new testimony by Cruz, that the accusations reached the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Karadima was condemned by the Vatican in 2011.

"We would like to put them all in jail"

Hamilton called Errazuriz a "criminal". He also extended the accusation of cover-up to the acting archbishop of Santiago, 76-year-old Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati. "We would like to put them all in jail," Hamilton said. However, Chilean criminal law provides for a statute of limitations of five and ten years, respectively, for the offenses in question.

Cruz also said Errazuriz and Ezzati had "hoodwinked" the pope about the abuse scandal.

The talks with the pope, which lasted several hours, were positive, according to the three abuse victims. They assessed the meeting as a sign of a turnaround of the Catholic Church in dealing with the problem. However, they also made clear the expectation of concrete consequences.

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