Pope Francis has rceived Cardinal Sean in audience while a clear demand has come from Chile.
(Santiago de Chile) Twice yesterday, the case of Barros stood front and center: in Rome and in Santiago de Chile. Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati SDB, the Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, opened an extraordinary gathering of the Chilean clergy yesterday. In Rome, the most important critic of Pope Francis was received in audience.
The reason is Pope Francis' letter to the Chilean Episcopal Conference. With the letter, the Catholic Church leader responded to the report of his special envoy, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, on the sexual abuse scandal in Chile and around the ex-priest Fernando Karadima. The focus is Bishop Juan Barros Madrid. In spite of serious warnings, Pope Francis made him bishop of the diocese of Osorno in early 2015. Karadima victims and a group of faithful from the diocese of Osorno have since protested against this appointment. They accuse Msgr. Barros of covering Karadima's crimes.
For three years, Pope Francis dismissed any criticism as "defamation" and "instrumentalization" by circles hostile to the Church. Therefore, he refused to speak with Barros critics and listen to them.
After Francis maintained this attitude during his visit to Chile last January, the criticism became so strong that he finally had to react. The pope's visit in Chile took place mostly in more remote areas. The Chileans showed demonstrative disinterest. The Karadima case, as the Bishops' Conference noted, severely shook faith in the Church. Nevertheless, Pope Francis saw no reason to change his attitude towards the victims and Bishop Barros. Rather, he explicitly invited him to concelebrate with him publicly. The head of the Church evidently thought of silencing the critics with this gesture of demonstrative confidence in Barros. Instead, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley OFM Cap of Boston joined the criticism. The cardinal is familiar with the case as President of the Pontifical Child Protection Commission.
At the same time, evidence was presented that Pope Francis since the spring of 2015 was informed about the allegations against Msgr. Barros. The pope had claimed otherwise on the return flight to Rome.
Course change - or not
Ten days after his return from Latin America, therefore, Francis made a course correction to curb the international expansion of criticism of his position. He appointed the Archbishop of Malta, Mgr. Charles Scicluna, Pontifical Special Envoy. Scicluna was commissioned to hear the Barros critics. He should do what Francis had refused to do for three years. In the second half of March, Scicluna presented more than 2,300 pages of reports after hearing more than 60 people in the US and Chile.
On April 11, the Vatican Press Office published a letter from Pope Francis to the Chilean bishops. He responded to the Scicluna report and spoke of the "pain and shame" he felt when reading the report.
In parallel, the Chilean Episcopal Conference issued a statement announcing the Pope's contrite attitude to the Chileans in order to restore their shattered confidence. Behind the scenes, the question was not settled.
Francis did not mention Bishop Barros in his letter. Rather, he issued an invitation to the bishops to come to Rome to discuss the matter. The bishops were silent in public. However, they knew that Francis was signaling that he would continue to cling to Barros, the stumbling block in public perception.
Barros himself had in the past submitted to the pope two resignations, which Francis rejected. A third request was to have Archbishop Scicluna together with his report at the papal desk. Barros himself denies this.
Clear signals from Cardinal Ezzati to FrancisThe fact is that the head of the Chilean Episcopal Conference wants to conclude the Barros case and therefore wants consequences. And not just since today, but already for three years. Francis was then also warned from the ranks of the Episcopal Conference against appointing Barros as Bishop of Osorno. The Pope, however, clings to him steadfastly. More and more often the question arises as to why.
Outwardly, the Chilean Episcopal Conference looks to be in good spirits. Yet behind the scenes there is considerable discord that Francis does not want Barros to give up his office.
The meeting called by Cardinal Ezzati yesterday in Santiago de Chile appealed to the whole clergy of the country to analyze the letter of Pope Francis. On the one hand, it is about the difficult task of regaining the lost trust among Chileans and, on the other, eliminating the causes. What Cardinal Ezzati imagines, he said very clearly and publicly afterwards. He expects Msgr. Barros to resign:
"I'm not a judge to decide if he's covered up something or not. For the good of the Church, however, he should take a step aside."At the same time the cardinal tried a difficult balancing act, with which he wanted to protect the reputation of the pope and at the same time wanted to build a bridge to accept the resignation Barros.
Cardinal Ezzati made it clear at yesterday's press conference that the Pope had to decide on his resignation. So far, Francis has rejected Barros' resignations. Ezzati, President of the Chilean Episcopal Conference from 2010-2016, assured the press that Pope Francis had been "deceived" as far as the information on the Karadima and Barros case was concerned.
Will Francis yield to this pressure from the Chilean Episcopal Conference?
Audience for Cardinal O'Malley in Rome
Yesterday, an event took place in Rome, even before the clergy meeting had begun in Santiago de Chile, which was likely to be directly linked to Chile.
Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley was received in audience by Pope Francis. It was noted in the Vatican's daily bulletin that the cardinal is chairman of the Pontifical Child Protection Commission . Nothing was known about the content of the meeting. However, it is believed that Cardinal O'Malley served as chairman of the Child Protection Commission at Francis and was speaking about the Barros case.
The meeting of Chilean bishops with Pope Francis in Rome is expected to take place in the third week of May. Until then, no decisions are likely to be made, as Francis has so far indicated no signs of wanting to change his position on Barros.
Has what Cardinal O'Malley said to him yesterday and what Cardinal Ezzati demanded yesterday, changed his mind?
The video with central excerpts from the press conference of Cardinal Ezzati yesterday in Santiago de Chile:
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Bild: Vatican.va/MiL (Screenshots)
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org