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Chilean officials raid four dioceses in sex abuse investigation

A woman holds a sign in protest while praying as Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago, Chile, celebrates Mass on July 25 at the cathedral in Santiago (CNS photo/Ivan Alvarado, Reuters)

As part of the investigation into sexual crimes against minors committed by members of the Catholic Church in Chile, the offices of the Archdiocese of Concepción and the dioceses of Valparaíso, Chillán, and Osorno all raided on Thursday.

The Sept. 13 raids were carried out by prosecutors and police, and ordered by prosecutor Emiliano Arias.

Among some the cases being investigated, in the Archdiocese of Concepción Fr. Reinaldo Méndez is accused of rape, and in Valparaíso, Bishop Emeritus Gonzalo Duarte is being investigated over accusations of cover-up and abuse.

In Chillán there is a complaint against Bishop Carlos Pellegrín for an unspecified sexual crime.

In the Osorno case, the bishop emeritus of the diocese, Juan Barros, is being investigated for alleged cover-up of abuse perpetrated by the priest Fernando Karadima who in 2011 was found guilty of sexual abuse by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and sanctioned with canonical penalties.

In June, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of bishops Barros and Duarte.

The Archdiocese of Concepción explained in a statement that besides the raid of files and archives, statements were also taken from the Judicial Vicar, the Promoter of Justice, the Chancellor, and the Notary.

A prosecutor “was shown that copies of the files and related sought for information had already been handed over to the Public Prosecutor. In any case, the original files were placed at his disposal,” the archdiocese said.

The raids are the latest in a series which have been carried out in recent months, including at the Santiago tribunal, the Chilean Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the dioceses of Rancagua, Temuco, Villarrica, and the military ordinariate.