Pope begins purge in Chile

Pope begins purge in Chile

Victims of the scandal hailed the removal of Barros, who has always denied allegations that he witnessed and covered up sexual abuse cases.

Barros submitted his resignation to Pope Francis alongside every other active bishop in Chile at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the pope and Chilean prelates, during which Francis chastised the bishops for systematic cover-up of abuse throughout the country. "Is that clear?" Pope Francis said, according to BBC.

They questioned Barros' suitability to lead given he had been a top lieutenant of Chile's most notorious predator priest and had been accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

Francis named temporary leaders for each of the dioceses. Caro said in a statement that he offered his resignation because of his age - both he and Duarte have reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 - but asked for "forgiveness for my omissions".

His later comments in apparent support of Barros set in motion a series of events that resulted in the pope's decision Monday to accept the three resignations.

"A new day has begun in Chile's Catholic Church!" tweeted Juan Carlos Cruz, the abuse survivor who denounced Barros for years and pressed for the Vatican to take action.

The announcement came as Pope Francis was sending his Vatican team back to Chile to promote healing from the abuse crisis.

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Barros, who is a central figure in the controversy, has been accused of covering up abuse committed by another priest in the 80s and 90s.

He later apologised to victims, following criticism from Cardinal Sean O'Malley, a Vatican pointman on clerical sex abuse.

Pope Francis has promised Chilean Catholics scarred by a culture of clergy sexual abuse that "never again" would the Church ignore them or the cover-up of abuse in their country.

Francis realized he had misjudged the Chilean situation after meeting with Cruz and reading a 2,300-page report compiled by two leading Vatican investigators about the depth of Chile's scandal. While the Pope has said removing bishops is a necessary step, he has also stressed an intent to tackle the root causes of the abuse problem which he believes goes beyond making personnel changes.

They accused Bishop Barros of using his position in the Church to cover up the actions of his mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty by the Vatican of sexually abusing children.

The pope irked victims by saying during a recent trip to Chile that there was not a "shred of proof" against Barros.

The Catholic Church's upcoming big family rally in Ireland will feature workshops on hot-button issues facing Catholic families, including priestly sexual abuse, weathering divorce and ministering to lesbian and gay faithful.

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