Pope accepts resignations of three Chilean bishops in wake of scandal

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Pope Francis became involved in the scandal surrounding Juan Barros when he defended the bishop during his visit to Chile in January.

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Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos were set to visit the Diocese of Osorno "with the aim of advancing the process of reparation and healing of abuse victims", the Vatican said in a statement on May 31.

But with the other two resignations, Francis is making clear that the troubles in Chile's church do not rest on Barros' shoulders alone, or on those of the more than 40 other priests and three other bishops trained by the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

Apart from Bishop Barros of Osorno, Archbishop Cristián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar of Valparaíso will now be replaced.

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It was the Pope's 2015 decision to name Bishop Barros to lead the small, southern Diocese of Osorno that sparked the abuse controversy in the country.

Following this, it was widely expected that Bishop Barros' resignation would be among the first that the Pope would accept. Barros had twice previously offered to resign.

He has also met with survivors, including Juan Carlos Cruz who reportedly tweeted that "Today begins a new day for the Catholic Church in Chile and hopefully the world".

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 by that priest.

Francis has vowed that 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.

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The Vatican in 2011 sentenced Karadima, a powerful preacher close to Chile's elite, to a lifetime of penance and prayer for his sex crimes.

The two investigators will meet Wednesday with Canon law experts from Chilean dioceses who will provide "technical and legal assistance" in order to "provide adequate responses to each case of child sexual abuse committed by clerics or religious", Scicluna told reporters.

Pope Francis has apologised to the victims and admitted he had made "grave mistakes" after reading a 2,300-page report on abuses in Chile.

Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of lay Catholics in Osorno who fought for Barros' removal from office, said it was a "minimum condition" that they had sought from the pope.

Since 2000, about 80 Roman Catholic priests have been reported to authorities in Chile for alleged sexual abuse. Francis said he had misjudged Juan Barros and the events in Chile because he hadn't been given "truthful and balanced information".

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