Muslim Times(Web Desk) -Chile’s most senior Catholic cleric has expressed his apology for the “tension” affecting the South American country after five bishops stepped down in a sexual abuse scandal that has triggered a major civil investigation.
“The terms to describe this situation are well-known: pain, shame, anger, indignation, tension,” Archbishop of Santiago Ricardo Ezzati said at a meeting with his colleagues in an internal church event on Tuesday, according to the transcript of his speech posted on the archbishopric’s website on Friday.
The Catholic Church is facing a “completely unprecedented situation,” Ezzati further said, adding, “We are living in a tense time within the country and the Church. We have contributed to that tension with our problems and our crimes.”
He was due to be questioned as a suspect by a civil prosecutor this month in the purported cover-up of sex abuse in the Chilean Catholic church. However, his lawyers have requested more time to prepare.
According to prosecutors, in the Chilean Catholic church scandal hundreds of children could have been abused. The unprecedented scandal has already been echoed worldwide in the biggest crisis during the tenure of Pope Francis.
Earlier this week, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal envoy in Washington from 2011 to 2016, published a letter in which he alleged that the pontiff had been aware for years of allegations of sex abuse by a famous US cardinal, and called on him to step down.
“Bishops accused of cover-up, on crimes, laity who declare themselves to be the Church and say they don’t need pastors. However, without a doubt, all of these things tell us that we need some time and spiritual wisdom to be able to discern what has happened,” Ezzati added.
The scandal centers around Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of misusing his position in the Catholic Church to try to obstruct a probe into his mentor, Fernando Karadima, an influential priest who was found guilty in 2011 by the Vatican of sexually abusing male minors in the 70s and 80s, and later sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer.”
Back in May, all 34 bishops in Chile have submitted their resignations to Pope Francis over the infamous child sex scandal and cover-up.
Barros, now 61, had offered his resignation to the pontiff multiple times during the past seven years, but it was rejected as he was believed to be innocent of the cover-up allegations. This time, it is thought his offer to quit will be accepted.
The Pope was widely criticized in January when he defended Barros during a visit to Chile, saying the accusations against him should be classed as “slander” until proven otherwise.
Chilean civil authorities are now investigating dozens of accusations of sexual abuse against bishops, clerics and lay workers in the Church since 2000.
The Roman Catholic Church has been hit by numerous scandals in the past few years, involving allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests.
Pope Francis, who was appointed in 2013 with a mandate to overhaul the Vatican, has warned that there will be “no privileges” for bishops when it comes to child sex offenses. The pontiff has also promised more action in response to accusations of cover-up and excessive leniency by the Vatican.