Pope Francis accepts resignations of 3 Chilean bishops involved in cover up of sexual abuse in church

Pope Francis meets Chilean bishops at the Vatican, May 15, 2018. | Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis accepted the resignation of three Chilean bishops who were said to be involved in the cover-up of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests.

Two bishops — Archbishop Cristian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte Garcia de Cortazar of Valparaiso — handed in their resignation ahead of the Vatican summit on sexual abuse last month after having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

The third church official who resigned — Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, has been at the forefront of the clerical sex abuse scandal that prompted the Vatican to conduct an investigation.

Barros, who was appointed by the pope in 2015, has been accused of witnessing and ignoring the sexual abuse committed by his mentor Fr. Fernando Karadima.

The bishop denied the accusations, but he was among the 30 active bishops that handed in their resignations to the pope during the Vatican summit last month.

In 2011, Karadima was convicted of sexually abusing boys and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance.

Francis had defended Barros during his visit to Chile in January, but the pope later acknowledged that he made "grave errors in judgment" about the bishop.

Barros had issued a statement on Monday asking forgiveness for his "limitations."

"I humbly ask you to forgive my limitations and what I could not achieve. Our lives are in the hands of God, who knows our consciences and actions in this complex time," the bishop said, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The pope's decision to accept the resignation of Barros and the other bishops has been hailed by some sexual abuse survivors as well as some Catholics in Osorno.

"This is huge not only for the Chilean church but for the entire world," said abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, according to Los Angeles Times. "The culture of abuse will never be tolerated again," he added.

Chilean Catholics are still expecting the pope to take additional disciplinary action against abusers and church officials involved in cover ups in an effort to regain the trust of parishioners.

"The pope himself pointed out that it was necessary to take short, medium and long-term measures in our church. There is no way to rule out new measures," Jaime Coiro, spokesman for the Chilean Episcopal Conference, said, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

According to The Catholic Herald, Francis has already appointed temporary leaders to run each diocese vacated by the three bishops.

Mercedarian Fr. Ricardo Basilio Morales Galindo was assigned to lead the Archdiocese of Puerto Montt. Auxiliary Bishop Pedro Ossandon Buljevic of Santiago will be leading the Diocese of Valparaiso, while Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Concha Cayuqueo of Santiago will take over at the Diocese of Osorno.