SANTIAGO – Amidst the sexual abuse scandal that has taken the Catholic Church in Chile for some years now, Pope Francis accepted today the resignation of two more bishops. Carlos Pellegrín Barrera, bishop of Chillán, and Chrstián Contreras Molina of San Felipe are under investigation by National Prosecutor Emiliano Ariás. The Pope already appointed their successors.
Two weeks ago, at the same time, the bishoprics of Concepción, Osorno, Chillán and Valparaíso were raided by Carabineros. Bishops and priests were arrested, and documents and computers were taken. The Public Ministry in Chile announced recently they are investigating over 119 cases of sexual abuses and cover-ups, among those investigated seven bishops and 91 priests. Among the 179 victims of these cases, at least 79 are minors. The two bishops that resigned today were among those investigated.
Pope Francis already appointed their successors. One of the main criteria of bishops and priests taking the position of resigned investigated churchmen, is that they take care of victims of sexual abuse within their church. And so, Father Sergio Pérez has been named bishop of Chillán. Between 2011 and 2014, Pérez was member of the National Council for the Prevention of Abuse and Accompaniment of Victims in Chile. In 2018 he was appointed as national delegate for the reception of complaints of abuse by the Vatican.
In San Felipe, Jaime Ortiz takes the place of resigned bishop Molina. Although he hasn´t worked in any committees for the prevention of sexual abuse, he has a history of working in the Vatican, which could mean Pope Francis is looking to strengthen his ties with the Catholic Church in Chile.
Chilean Archbishop travels to the Vatican
The Archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomalí traveled yesterday to Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis. Although the religious authority himself claims the meeting was requested and scheduled already three months ago, the timing does raise questions, as the investigations, accusations and resignations in the Catholic Church in Chile keep piling up.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.