Vatican official’s visit to Chile unrelated to abuse case of popular priest

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The Chilean bishops' conference affirmed that a visit to the country by a high-ranking Vatican official had “no connection whatsoever” to the abuse case of a popular Chilean priest.

The spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Chile, Jaime Coiro, said on May 20 that Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's visit to the country was not connected to the case of Father Fernando Karadima.

Fr. Karadima was found guilty of sex abuse by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Coiro’s statement came in response to claims by one of Fr. Karadima’s victims who said Cardinal Bertone came to Chile “when the crisis was about to explode in the media” in an attempt to mitigate it.

Cardinal Bertone’s visit was to mark the country’s bicentennial, Coiro explained, at the invitation of the government of Chile. The trip had been planned since 2007 and was formalized in 2008.  After the earthquake in February of 2010, Pope Benedict asked Cardinal Bertone to convey his concern and prayers for the victims of the tragedy, the spokesman explained.

While  “the clergy sex abuse scandal was certainly addressed during the visit, because of the worldwide repercussions of the events in Ireland,” he continued, “Fr. Karadima’s situation was not part of his agenda.”

On April 21, 2010, the apostolic nunciature in Chile announced that Cardinal Bertone did not speak with any lawyers regarding the case of Fr. Karadima and that the accusations against the priest “were not addressed at any time during the meeting (Cardinal) Bertone held with the bishops,” Coiro said.

The Karadima Case

After an investigation carried out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr. Fernando Karadima was found guilty of sexually abusing minors. He was ordered to retire to a life of prayer and penance.

Authorities in Chile decided to reopen the civil case against the priest, following the Vatican’s investigation.

On Feb. 18, 2011, the Archdiocese of Santiago released the results of an investigation that ended on Jan. 16, 2011, with a decree forbidding Fr. Karadima from ever exercising the priesthood in public again. 

The Chilean priest said he would fully comply with the wishes of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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