Barros has repeatedly insisted that he knew nothing of the abuse, at one point telling the Associated Press that "I never knew anything about, nor ever imagined the serious abuses which that priest committed against the victims."
"I have never approved of nor participated in such serious dishonest acts and I have never been convicted by any tribunal of such things."
In January 2015 Francis named Barros to head the Diocese of Osorno in southern Chile, setting off a wave of objections and calls for his resignation from several priests. Dozens of protesters, including non-Catholics, attempted to disrupt his March 21, 2015 installation Mass at the Osorno cathedral.
Days later, Archbishop Fernando Chomali Garib of Concepcion said that Pope Francis had told him that there was "no objective reason at all" that the bishop should not be installed. The pontiff had been kept up-to-date on the situation.
On March 31, 2015, the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops also released a statement, saying that the office had "carefully examined the prelate's candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment."
The then-apostolic nuncio to Chile, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, said that all information about Barros was passed on to Pope Francis. Most of the people in the church, he said, were not protesters, but "people who love their bishop."
On May 6, 2015, five months after Barros was appointed to lead the Diocese of Osorno, Deacon Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean episcopal conference, told Pope Francis that the Church in Osorno "is praying and suffering for you."
"Osorno suffers, yes," Pope Francis said, "for silliness." According to a video of the conversation released by Chile's Ahora Noticias, the Pope had told Coiro that "the only accusation against that bishop was discredited by the judicial court."