Vatican City, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of two Chilean bishops, the Holy See has announced. The decision brings the total number of prelates to have had their resignations accepted by the pope to 7, following the allegations of systemic sexual abuse and cover-ups by Church authorities.
The removal of Bishop Carlos Pellegrín Barrera of Chillán and Bishop Cristián Contreras Molina of San Felipe was confirmed in the daily Bollettino of the Holy See Press Office. It was also confirmed that no successors had yet been chosen.
Instead, the dioceses will be led temporarily by apostolic administrators appointed by the pope. Two religious priests were named as having been chosen to take over from the bishops.
Fr. Sergio Pérez de Acre Arriagada, a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, will administer the Diocese of Chillán. Fr. Pérez has been serving as the rector of the church of the Sacred Hearts in Valparaiso.
Fr. Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano Piquer, S.V.D., will serve as the temporary head of the Diocese of San Felipe. Fr. Ortiz is currently the Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese of Santiago.
On May 17, 2018, almost the entire Chilean hierarchy presented their resignations to the Holy Father after accusations emerged concerning the suppression of allegations of sexual abuse, the transfer of suspected or known abusers between parishes, interference in canonical investigations and pressuring the investigators themselves, and destroying evidence.
A subsequent investigation conducted by Archbishop Charles Scicluna produced a final report more than 2,000 pages long.
The sexual abuse crisis in Chile, although a serious local concern for some time, came to international attention following a visit by Pope Francis to that country in January 2018. Initial focus centered on the ministry of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was accused of protecting Fernando Karadima, a priest and serial sexual abuser of children.
Karadima was convicted of sexual abuse by a Vatican court in 2011, at the age of 84.
During the papal visit, the pope appeared to dismiss Barros’ accusers, saying he had not seen any credible evidence against the bishop.
Several of Karadima’s victims, led by Mr. Juan Carlos Cruz, had previously sought to present their accusations to Pope Francis, following Barros’ appointment to Osorno. Although submitting a written plea to the pope through Cardinal O’Malley, Francis subsequently said he had not personally received it and offered a personal apology for his handling of the matter.
The media scrutiny which followed the pope’s visit resulted in the scale of the sexual abuse scandal in Chile becoming clear, leading to a crisis meeting between the pope and the Chilean bishops in May.
Since then, Chilean civil authorities have raided several diocesan chanceries, seizing document and issuing subpoenas to numerous Church officials.