VATICAN CITY — The Vatican announced Monday that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid from his post in the Diocese of Osorno, after his being accused of covering up for Chile’s most notorious abuser priest, Father Fernando Karadima.
The announcement came in a June 11 communiqué from the Vatican, along with news of the resignations of two other Chilean bishops.
Bishop Barros submitted his resignation to Pope Francis alongside every other active bishop in Chile at the close of a May 15-17 meeting between the Pope and Chilean prelates, during which Francis chastised the bishops for a systematic cover-up of abuse throughout the country.
Taking over in Bishop Barros’ stead is Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Enrique Conchua Cayuqueo of Santiago, who will serve as the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Osorno.
In addition to Bishop Barros, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Cristián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt, naming Father Ricardo Basilio Morales Galindo, provincial for the Order of Mercy in Chile as apostolic administrator.
He also accepted the resignation of Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar of Valparaíso, naming Auxiliary Bishop Pedro Mario Ossandón Buljevic of Chile apostolic administrator.
Francis had summoned the bishops to Rome following an in-depth investigation and report into the Chilean clerical-abuse crisis carried out by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in February, resulting in a 2,300-page report on the scandal.
The decision of whether to accept the bishops’ resignations is up to Pope Francis. So far, Bishop Barros, Archbishop Caro and Bishop Duarte are the first bishops whose resignations Pope Francis has formally accepted.
The announcement coincides with a new pastoral mission that Archbishop Scicluna and Msgr. Bertomeu will undertake in Chile June 12-19, this time traveling to the Diocese of Osorno, which Bishop Barros had led since 2015. The investigators will spend June 14-17 in Osorno, and the remainder of their time will be spent in Santiago.
Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop Barros to Osorno in 2015 was met with a wave of objections and calls for his resignation. Dozens of protesters, including non-Catholics, attempted to disrupt his March 21, 2015, installation Mass at the Osorno cathedral.
Opponents have been vocal about their opposition to Bishop Barros ever since, with some of the most outspoken being victims of Father Karadima, who in 2011 was found guilty by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of sexually abusing several minors during the 1980s and 1990s and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.
Bishop Barros maintained his innocence, saying he didn’t know the abuse was happening. Pope Francis initially backed him, refusing to allow the bishop to step down from his post and calling accusations against him “calumny” during a visit to Chile in January.
However, after the investigation, the Pope in April apologized for having made “serious mistakes” in judging the case due to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.”
Since then, he has met with two rounds of abuse survivors, in addition to his meeting with Chilean bishops.