SANTIAGO – Prosecutors in Chile questioned Roman Catholic bishop Juan Barros as part of an investigation into sex abuse allegations against former military chaplain Pedro Quiroz.
Barros, whose resignation as bishop of Osorno was accepted by the Pope in June alongside those of four other bishops, was interrogated as a suspect for more than three hours on Thursday in Santiago, city prosecutor Raul Guzman said.
Quiroz was part of the military bishops’ office headed by Barros between 2004 and 2015. According to statement from the office in late August, there were several complaints against Quiroz from between 1997 and 2000.
According to a statement posted on the military bishopric’s website, a complaint of abuse in 1997 was filed against Quiroz in July 2018. The priest was previously investigated by the Vatican over abuse allegations in 2000, but the case was shelved for lack of statements from the alleged victims, the statement said.
The office of the bishop to the armed services in August became the latest in a series of Church facilities raided by Chilean prosecutors who have launched one of the world’s most aggressive investigations into the abuse scandal.
Barros is due to be questioned over the cases shortly.
He was also accused of protecting Reverend Fernando Karadima, his former mentor who was found guilty by a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing teenage boys over many years. The former bishop has maintained he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
In January, the pope was forced to apologize after dismissing allegations against Barros as “slander” and “without evidence” during a visit to Chile.
Barros told journalists after being questioned by the Santiago police’s Sexual Crimes Unit on Thursday that he was a suspect in the cover-up of the case of Father Pedro Quiroz, a former military chaplain who fell under his direction when he was the country’s military bishop between 2004 and 2015.
“I contributed what I could contribute. I told the prosecutor what I knew or didn’t know,” Barros said.
The Sexual Crimes Unit of the country’s Prosecutor’s Office announced last week that the number of sexual abuse cases, involving Chilean church officials, has tripled since July.
The cases involve all ranges of Chile’s Catholic church officials which amount to 167 imputed priests, deacons, seculars and bishops. At the same time, the numbers of victims have gone up to 178, including 79 children and adolescents.