Chilean diocese opens investigation of priest accused of sexual abuse

The Cathedral of Linares Chile Credit Eguirald via Wikimedia CC BY SA 30 CNA The Cathedral of St. Ambrose in Linares, Chile. | Eguirald via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The Diocese of Linares confirmed Wednesday the receipt of a complaint of alleged sexual abuse by Fr.  Germán Cáceres Fuentes.

The diocese explained in a June 6 statement that a preliminary investigation has begun and Fr. Cáceres has been removed from ministry until the decision of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is obtained.

It was also determined that the priest has the obligation to remain in the diocese and be available when required "within the next 48 hours for any proceedings" of the investigation.

They also requested the "cooperation of everyone who could contribute pertinent or relevant information in this investigation."

"Bishop Tomislav Koljatic and the diocesan Church of Linares reiterate their total commitment to determining the truth and total rejection of any kind of abuse against minors and/or vulnerable persons. It also thus reaffirms its commitment to the support and accompaniment of the victims. And it asks the Lord that this pain and suffering be the source of the transformation and healing that our Church and communities need," the statement concluded.

Fr. Cáceres has been serving as pastor of Santa Rosa parish in Melozal, fewer than 20 miles northwest of Linares.

On June 5, the Linares diocese issued a statement on the canonical situation of Fr. Ramón Iturra Muñoz, accused of sexually abusing minors and whose case file was sent to the Holy See in July 2017.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith established "the plausibility of said accusation" and requested that the investigation be widened to other parishes where the priest had previously been assigned.

"Given this determination, another precautionary measure is added which is the prohibition of publicly exercising the priestly ministry until the final verdict," the diocese stated.

Clerical sex abuse in Chile has been in the spotlight since Pope Francis' visit to the country in January.

The pope was asked about  Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, whom he appointed Bishop of Osorno in 2015. Bishop Barros has been accused of covering up abuse committed by  Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011 of abusing minors, and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance.

Pope Francis initially defended Bishop Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him "calumny" during his January trip to Chile. He later relented, and sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to investigate the situation in the country.

After receiving Archbishop Scicluna's report, Francis apologized, said he had been seriously mistaken, and asked to meet the country's bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

He met with Chile's bishops May 15-17. As a result, each of them tendered letters of resignation, which Pope Francis has yet to accept or reject. The pope also gave the bishops a lettter chastising them for systemic cover-up of clerical abuse and calling them to institute deep changes.

The pope has twice met at the Vatican with groups of Fr. Karadima's victims, in April and in June.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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