Authorities raided Catholic church offices in Chile on Wednesday in an effort to obtain documents relating to the recent sex abuse scandal which has sparked the resignation of more than 30 bishops in the country.
During the surprise raid, police seized documents and files relating to the ongoing clergy abuse investigation from the Santiago Ecclesiastical Court and the bishop’s office in Rancagua in central Chile on June 13. According to the Associated Press, there are 14 priests in the area who have been accused of child sexual abuse.
Jorge Abbott, the attorney general, said the goal of the raid was to seek “cooperation in the investigations we are carrying out with respect to abuses suffered by minors,” and noted he was satisfied with the information they gathered from the search, according to AP.
The archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, said church officials “gave the prosecutor all the requested documentation,” saying the church is “available to cooperate with the civilian justice system in all that is required.”
The raid comes just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros from his post in the Chilean diocese of Osorno, after he was accused of covering up the crimes of notorious abuser Fr. Fernando Karadima.
The Holy Father also accepted the resignation of Archbishop Christian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte Garcia de Cortazar of Valparaiso, who had reached the normal retirement age for bishops. So far, the pope has officially accepted three resignations, although more could follow. All of the country’s active bishops submitted their resignations at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pontiff and the country's bishops, during which Francis chastised them for systematic cover-up.
In January, the Vatican began to investigate the claims of alleged child sexual abuse in Chile, which found that for years, many Chilean bishops had not reported claims of sexual abuse. Before the 2,300-page report on the scandal was published, Pope Francis had originally defended Barros, saying the accusations brought against him were untrue.
Since the investigation, which was headed by Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, Pope Francis has offered his apologies, noting he made “serious mistakes” throughout the investigation due to faulty information. He has met with two rounds of abuse victims to ask for forgiveness.
Archbishop Scicluna and Msgr. Bertomeu, who have been tasked with advancing “the process of healing and reparation for abuse victims,” are visiting Osorno, Chile this week in an effort to express Pope Francis’ solidarity with the local Church and help provide legal assistance to the diocesan curias in handling abuse allegations.