In addition to Barros, Karadima's victims have also accused three other Chilean bishops who had been close to Karadima – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – of cover-up.
Despite the protests, Barros has maintained his innocence, saying he didn't know the abuse was happening. Pope Francis has backed him, and has refused to allow Barros to step down from his post, though the bishop has submitted a letter of resignation multiple times.
Francis' decision to send Scicluna to Santiago to investigate the accusations came after controversy flared during the pope's Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, during which he responded to a Chilean journalist who asked about the Barros issue, saying the accusations were "calumny," because there was no proof.
The comment prompted uproar from Barros' critics, several of whom are victims of Karadima's abuse. It also prompted Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, one of the Pope's nine cardinal advisors and head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, to release a statement saying the words were painful to victims.
In a conversation with journalists on the way back to Rome, Pope Francis apologized, but said there was no evidence condemning Barros, and that so far, no victims had come forward.
However, less than one week after the decision to send Scicluna to Chile was announced, one of Karadima's victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, said in an interview with the Associated Press that in 2015 he had sent a letter to the pope through the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, alleging that Barros had seen Karadima's abuse and had at times participated.
Members of the commission confirmed the news, and said the commission's head, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, had indeed handed the letter to Pope Francis, raising the question of whether the pope actually read the letter.
Before going to Santiago Feb. 19 to interview witnesses related to the Barros accusations, Scicluna stopped in New York to interview Cruz. He then went to Santiago to interview additional witnesses related to the Barros case.
Scicluna is a well-regarded Vatican expert on sex abuse appeals cases. In addition to heading the Archdiocese of Malta, in 2015 he was named by the pope to oversee a team in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charged with handling appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He served as the congregation's Promoter of Justice for 17 years, and is widely known for his expertise in the canonical norms governing allegations of sexual abuse.
In addition to his interviews on Barros, Scicluna also met with alleged victims of abuse by the Marist Brothers, a move which seemingly broadened the scope of his mandate in the country.
In August 2017, the Marist Brothers reported that a member of the congregation had admitted to abusing 14 boys in Chile. Earlier this year, the Marist Brothers began a canonical investigation of allegations of sexual abuse in Chile by some of its members.
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In his letter to Chile's bishops, Pope Francis said now is an "opportune" time to "put the Church of Chile in a state of prayer."
"Now more than ever we cannot fall back into the temptation of verbiage or dwell in generalities," he said, and told the bishops to look to Christ in the coming days and weeks.
"Let us look at his life and gestures, especially when he shows compassion and mercy to those who have erred. Let us love in the truth, let us ask for wisdom of heart and allow ourselves to be converted."
Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.