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Chilean police conduct surprise raid on Catholic Church offices amid investigation on child sexual abuse

(Reuters/Rodrigo Garrido)Special Vatican envoys archbishop Charles Scicluna and father Jordi Bertomeu attend a news conference in Santiago, Chile June 12, 2018.

Two separate offices of the Catholic Church in Chile have been raided by police and prosecutors on Wednesday as part of the investigation on allegations of child sexual abuse by priests.

According to the Associated Press, Chilean authorities have seized investigative reports and church documents related to the sex abuse allegations during the raids on the headquarters of the Ecclesiastical Court in Santiago and the bishop's office in Rancagua in the O'Higgins region.

Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, vowed to cooperate with the authorities and said that church officials have provided all the documents requested by the prosecutor.

Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano, the Archbishop of Santiago's legal advisor, said that he was in a meeting with a Vatican envoy when he was asked to appear in court regarding the seizure of documents related to a probe on child sexual abuse.

"I was very surprised when they told me 'Father, go to the court because there's going to be a raid,'" Lazcano told reporters, according to Reuters.

"It's not common that (prosecutors) solicit information from a canonical investigation, but we are entirely willing to cooperate," he added.

The Vatican envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, stressed that it was "very important" for the Church to work with the government in protecting the victims of sexual abuse.

"The canonical process should in no way impede the right of people to exercise their right to civil justice," he said in a news conference in Santiago, as reported by Reuters.

Prosecutor Emiliano Arias insisted that the investigation is focused on "individuals working for the Catholic Church, not the Catholic Church itself."

Last month, the bishop of Rancagua suspended 14 priests following accusations of "improper conduct."

Local media have reported that Chilean prosecutors have already asked the Vatican for information about priests and church workers accused of sexual abuse.

On Monday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has accepted the resignations of three bishops in relation to the sexual abuse scandals.

Around 30 active Chilean bishops have submitted their resignation last month over their failure to protect children from abusive priests.

Scicluna and Spanish Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu have traveled to Chile to take statements from abuse victims. The two church officials have recently submitted a 2,300-page report that prompted Francis to acknowledge that he had misjudged the situation in Chile.

According to the BBC, as many as 80 priests have been reported to the authorities for sexual abuse in the past 18 years.

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