SANTIAGO – Demonstrations have been planned in Chile, a staunchly Catholic country, ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the Latin American nation in order to push the Holy See to act against sexual abuse of children in Church.
Nearly 70 Chilean priests, deacons, religious bothers and a nun have been accused of sexually abusing children in Chile since 2000, US-based BishopAccountability.org said Thursday ahead of a visit to the country next week by the Pope.
The list includes Chilean priest Fernando Karadima, accused of abusing children in 2010 and convicted by the Vatican, but not Chile.
A 2011 Vatican investigation found Karadima guilty of abusing teenage boys over many years and ordered him to retire to a “life of prayer and penitence.”
Parishioners in Osorno, a small city 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the Chilean capital, say they will plan to protest every day of the Pope’s Jan. 15 – 18 stay in Chile over 2015 appointment of a Roman Catholic bishop accused of protecting Father Karadima.
Pope Francis, who hails from neighboring Argentina and once briefly lived in Chile, has defended Osorno Bishop Juan Barros and says allegations that he covered up abuses by the cleric were unfounded, the Reuters reported.
The bishop also denies allegations of abuse and says he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
Both were members of a priestly society in Santiago and Karadima served as Barros’ mentor during the bishop’s youth.
Foreign-born clergy members on the monitoring group’s list included Irishman Jeremiah Healy, American Jesuit H. Cornell Bradley, and Filipino Reverend Richard Joey Aguinaldo.
Protests will kick off during the Pope’s public appearances in Santiago de Chile next week, before his trip will take him to neighboring Peru.
“This is an otherwise remarkable pope who has obviously done a tremendous amount of good in the Catholic Church. But when it comes to the issue of child sexual abuse, he is as recalcitrant as any old-school bishop,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Boston-based research group.
The group said it hoped the timing would push the pontiff to take action needed to stem the tide of abuse.
Chile has about 2,300 priests.