In Chile as Vatican’s investigator, Malta archbishop Charles Scicluna hears abuse victims’ testimony

Vatican special envoy hears abuse victims’ testimony against Bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up sexual abuse of minors by convicted priest Fernando Karadima

Charles Scicluna (right) with Pope Francis
Charles Scicluna (right) with Pope Francis

The Maltese archbishop Charles J. Scicluna has met the victims of Chilean priest Fr Fernando Karadima, who was convicted in 2011 for abusing a number of boys.

A Chilean man who was sexually abused by the priest said he was hopeful his testimony to Scicluna, appointed as special investigator by Pope Francis, would lead to better protection for children.

“I hope that in the Chile of the future, there is security for children, there is no statute of limitations on sexual abuse, that Sename (Chile’s child protection service) cares for children,” James Hamilton told reporters on Tuesday. “It does not matter to me what the Catholic Church determines.”

Hamilton’s testimony against the priest Fernando Karadima during a previous Vatican investigation helped convict the priest in 2011.

Archbishop Scicluna is in Santiago looking into accusations that Bishop Juan Barros covered up crimes against minors.

He started hearing victims’ testimony on Tuesday, including that of Hamilton.

Pope Francis was criticized during his visit last month for defending Bishop Juan Barros, whom he appointed in 2015 despite accusations that he had covered up sexual abuse of minors.

Several men have accused Barros of protecting Karadima, his former mentor. Barros, of the diocese of Osorno, has said he was unaware of any wrongdoing by Karadima.

Hamilton said he is convinced Scicluna will bring the truth to Pope Francis. “I have no doubt that Monsignor Scicluna is going to share [with the pope] what is really happening in Chile,” he said.

Scicluna, known for his role in the sexual abuse investigation that led to the removal of late Mexican priest Marcial Maciel in 2005, arrived in Santiago on Monday.

On Tuesday, he had interviews with victims in Providencia, the wealthy Santiago neighborhood that is home to Karadima’s former parish. “I have come to Chile, sent by Pope Francis, to gather useful information concerning Monsignor Juan Barros,” Scicluna said in a short statement to reporters after the meetings.

Scicluna was due to hear testimony from victims until his scheduled departure from Chile on Friday. Before his trip to Chile, Scicluna heard testimony in New York from a witness in the case against Barros, Juan Carlos Cruz.