VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of three Chilean bishops including the controversial Juan Barros of Osorno, the city at the centre of the uproar, the Vatican said on Monday.
In an unprecedented move, all Chile’s 34 bishops offered to resign en masse last month after attending a crisis meeting with the pope over allegations of a cover-up of sexual abuse in the South American nation.
Several members of the Chilean church hierarchy are accused by victims of ignoring and covering up child abuse by Chilean pedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.
Besides Barros, the pope also agreed to the departures of Cristian Caro Cordero, bishop of Puerto Montt, and Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortazar, bishop of Valparaiso.
Church administrators were appointed to run all three diocese.
It was not immediately clear if Monday’s move meant the pope would not accept any of the other resignations.
Argentine-born Francis, whose decision was announced in a Vatican statement Monday, has said it must not happen again on his watch.
But the pontiff himself became mired in the scandal when, during a trip to Chile in January, he defended Barros who was accused of covering up Karadima’s wrongdoing.
Francis apologized to the victims and admitted he had made “grave mistakes” after reading a 2,300-page report on abuses in Chile.
He has since received two groups of Karadima’s victims at the Vatican.
Since 2000, about 80 Roman Catholic priests have been reported to authorities in Chile for alleged sexual abuse.
The Vatican’s most experienced sexual abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna visited Chile earlier this year to look into the scandal. He has been sent back to Chile to gather more information.