Chile prosecutors question bishop accused of concealing sexual abuse
Catholic Bishop Juan Barros was questioned here Wednesday as a potential defendant in a case involving alleged sexual abuse by a former military chaplain.
Barros, one of the most questioned figures in the Chilean Catholic Church, testified for 2 1/2 hours before the chief prosecutor of the O’Higgins region, Sergio Moya.
This is the second time that Barros, bishop emeritus of Osorno, has testified in the case of the alleged abuses committed by erstwhile air force chaplain Pedro Quiroz.
In both situations, Barros, who was the armed forces bishop from 2004-2015, had to give explanations for his alleged efforts to cover up the actions of Quiroz.
The armed forces diocese in July received an accusation that Quiroz sexually abused a minor in 1997.
The priest had already been investigated in 2000 by the Vatican for two complaints of sexual abuse of minors, but the necessary statements from the victims were not obtained and thus the facts could not be definitively determined or responsibility assigned.
Moya said after questioning Barros that the bishop denied the accusations he had covered up anything.
The prosecutor underlined the importance of the status of Barros as a retired army general since that means that he was a public official and covering up a crime in that situation is a “criminal offense.”
Moya said that he told Barros that he might be summoned again to testify in other cases under investigation as a result of the seizure of documents from the offices of the armed forces diocese.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Barros as Bishop of Osorno in June.
Several victims of abuse committed by influential priest Fernando Karadima have claimed that Barros witnessed the events in question but decided to hide and keep quiet about them for years.
Chilean prosecutors say they are investigating 190 people with connections to the church for alleged abuse involving 245 people, of whom 102 were minors at the time of the incidents.