Pope Francis met with the outgoing bishop of a Chilean diocese on Friday after the appointment of his successor received opposition from clergy and lawmakers who accuse him of covering up sexual abuse by one of the country’s most prominent priests, The Associated Press reported.
No details were released about the meeting between Francis and Monsignor Fernando Natalio Chomali Garib. He was the temporary head of the Osorno diocese since 2013. When Garib resigned in January, the pope appointed Bishop Juan Barros Madrid to run the post permanently. He is scheduled to be installed on March 21.
Chilean priests and lawmakers have protested Madrid’s appointment, claiming he helped cover up the actions of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a well-known priest who abused teenage boys about 20 years ago at his residence in Santiago. In 2011, the Vatican sanctioned Karadima, then 80, by demanding he spend the rest of his life in “penitence and prayer.” While he was brought to trial in Chile, Karadima’s case was thrown out since it exceeded the country’s statute of limitations on the crime, but the judge deemed the allegations to be true.
Chilean lawmakers have appealed to the Ivo Scapalo, the papal nuncio in Chile, demanding the appointment be rescinded. About 50 of them signed a petition asking for Madrid's resignation. Another petition was established by 1,000 residents in Osorno making the same demands.
During his tenure, Francis has been criticized by victims' groups for the Vatican’s failure to reprimand abusive priests and the clergy who supervise them. In May 2014, he created a commission to address sexual abuse within the church. In February, the commission met for the first time where members drafted policies to hold bishops accountable for protecting sexually abusive priests.
Marie Collins, an Irish woman who was abused more than 50 years ago by a hospital chaplain, sits on the commission. After its first meeting she expressed hope the body will find a solution to the crisis that has plagued the church for decades.
“The commission is working on a means by which bishops can be made accountable," Collins told the National Catholic Reporter. "And if that goes forward ... there will be an answer to this problem."