Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a controversial figure at the center of Chile’s child sex abuse scandal along with two other bishops, according to the Vatican. Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno was accused of covering up the acts of a notorious abuser, and the pope enraged thousands of Catholics in Chile when he appointed Barros as bishop in 2015.
Francis also accepted the resignations of Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso and Bishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt.
The pope accepted Barros’ resignation despite previous attempts to defend the bishop. During his visit to Chile in January, Francis upset abuse survivors and their loved ones when he dismissed the allegations against Barros as “calumny,” saying there was no evidence and that he had never seen proof against the bishop.
Barros was a protégé of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who in 2011 was found guilty by the Vatican and ordered to retire for abusing dozens of minors over a decades-long period, with some allegations dating back to the 1980s.
Karadima’s victims have long accused Barros of knowing about the abuse but saying and doing nothing about it. Barros has repeatedly denied playing any role.
The scandal and fury over the bishop cast a dark shadow over Francis’ visit to Chile earlier this year: At least five churches were attacked in Santiago — some with firebombs — and a death threat was made against the pope.
After Francis returned to the Vatican, he sent the Roman Catholic Church’s top sex crimes expert to Chile to investigate further.
In April, the pope publicly acknowledged that he had erred in handling the situation, saying he had made “serious mistakes” — and summoning Chile’s bishops to an emergency meeting in Rome. Francis said he had misjudged Barros and the events in Chile because he hadn’t been given “truthful and balanced information.”
In May, all of Chile’s 31 active bishops offered to resign their posts, issuing a statement in which they asked forgiveness and apologized for “the grave errors and omissions that we committed.”
The three resignations are the only listings in the Vatican’s update on Monday that announces arrivals and departures among the church’s senior staff.