The Vatican on Tuesday strongly defended its appointment of a bishop in Chile despite protests by critics who have accused him of covering up sexual abuse.
Juan Barros was installed on March 21 as new bishop of Osorno as supporters holding white balloons and opponents carrying black ones shouted at each other during the ceremony in the city’s cathedral.
The appointment outraged some parishioners, national legislators and abuse victims who said Barros had protected one of the nation’s most notorious pedophiles and asked Pope Francis to rescind it.
Deputy spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini, in the Vatican’s first official comment on a case that has divided Chileans, said the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops had “carefully examined the prelate’s candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment”.
Tapped by Pope Francis for the position in Osorno on Jan. 10, Barros has become a deeply controversial figure in Chile because of his ties to the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a former mentor who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011 of sexual abuse of minors and sentenced to life of “penance and prayer.”
The victims of Karadima have accused Barros and three other bishops of covering up for Karadima while he sexually abused devoted followers during the 1980s and 1990s. They’re currently in a legal battle with the diocese of Santiago de Chile, demanding a public apology from the Chilean Church, for the institution to recognize Karadima’s crimes, and financial compensation of $700,000.
When Barros was installed as the new bishop of Osorno on March 21, his Mass had to be cut short due to protests. The crowd threw objects at the prelate, pushed him, and tried to stop him from entering St. Mathew’s church.