SANTIAGO – Renato Poblete was one of the most famous priests in Chile, receiving national awards from presidents and even having a park named after him. And now, four years after his death, the national hero finds himself amid a sexual abuse scandal. One that hits one of Chile’s most beloved foundations right in their soul.
2019 could not have started worse for the Jesuits in Chile. The congregation received a letter describing “serious crime and sexual abuse between 1985 and 1993”, directed against one of Chile´s most beloved priests: Renato Poblete, the man who made the Hogar de Cristo foundation to what it is today.
Not only the Jesuits in Chile received the letter: investigators from the Vatican, sent to the country to help oversee the sexual abuse scandal in the Chilean Catholic Church, saw the letter as well. Mid-January, the Jesuits opened an investigation, although Poblete has been dead for four years, due to the “seriousness of the situation”.
The letter came from a 53-year-old theology professor at Universidad Católica, who claims to have been abused when she was 20 years old. With her allegations, she seems to have opened Pandora’s Box, because new allegations have been reached the Jesuits, who see one of their most inspirational figures of the last century in the center of a growing sexual abuse scandal.
Who was Renato Poblete?
Poblete was a Chilean priest educated by Alberto Hurtado, a famous Chilean priest who founded the Hogar de Cristo foundation. Poblete started serving there as Chaplain in the early 80s and had a major role in the growth of the foundation. Apart from his work for the church, Poblete worked as scientist, columnist and even negotiated during the kidnapping of Cristián Edwards, the son of daily El Mercurio publisher Agustín, by the guerilla group Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front in 1991.
Poblete received various awards during his career, of which the Premio Bicentenario by then president Michelle Bachelet in 2009 was the highlight. One year later, Poblete died of cardiac arrest. In 2015, the Padre Renato Poblete Park was inaugurated. The municipality of Quinto Normal said it is possible that in the near future the name of the park will be changed, if accusations prove true.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.