A Chilean cardinal who has been at the center of the country’s clerical sexual abuse crisis acknowledged on Wednesday that he’s no longer a member of the council of nine cardinals, referred to as the C9, that advises the pope. In addition, a local prosecutor announced he’ll be summoning him under charges of covering up abusive priests.
Speaking with Radio Cooperativa, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz said that having reached the five-year term he had been appointed to serve the pope in the C9, he had travelled to Rome to say goodbye to the pope and to “thank him for the job he entrusted us with.”
The Vatican’s press office didn’t answer Crux’s request for confirmation.
The C9 is a task force created by Pope Francis at the beginning of his pontificate to reform the government of the Church, known as the Roman Curia. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is the lone American on the commission.
On the same day Errazuriz made his announcement, the prosecutors’ office in Chile announced that they will be summoning the cardinal to testify on the alleged cover up of the actions of Father Jorge Laplagne, who’s been accused of sexually abusing minors.
The announcement came on the same day retired Bishop Juan Barros testified over allegations that he had covered up for the former army chaplain, Father Pedro Quiroz, who’s been suspended by the diocese of Talca after allegations that he sexually abused minors.
Barros, like Errazuriz, has been at the center of the crisis rocking the Catholic Church in Chile. Pope Francis’s 2015 decision to transfer him from the military ordinariate to the southern diocese of Osorno generated uproar. The pope publicly defended Barros, who’s been accused by the victims of former priest Fernando Karadima of having covered up for the man, who was his mentor.
Errazuriz, too, is accused of having covered up for the country’s most infamous pedophile priest, who was removed from the priesthood by Pope Francis last month, after having been sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer in 2011 for abusing minors.
Barros gave testimony on Wednesday for over three hours, and according to prosecutor Sergio Moya, “answered every question.” As a former military bishop, the prelate is considered a retired general of the Chilean army, and as such, a public employee who was obliged to bring the allegations against Quiroz to the public authorities.
According to Moya, Barros is also being investigated in connection to “other cases.” His situation, the prosecutor said, is different from that of several of the other Chilean bishops - 8 in total, not including Errazuriz - who’ve been summoned to testify or who are being investigated for either covering up abuse or of having abused minors and seminarians themselves.
Barros is one of seven bishops who had his resignation accepted by Francis earlier in the year, and the pope is expected to accept several more, including that of the Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati.
Speaking to the media after being questioned, Barros said that he hopes that with his testimony “and with God’s favor, everything will become clear.”
He acknowledged that for the victims of abuse there is always “a lot of pain,” and denied having covered up cases of clerical sexual abuse.