Chile’s top cardinal has been summoned by a local prosecutor after a letter from a fellow bishop accused him of failing to deal with cases of clerical sex abuse.
Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago de Chile will testify in the town of Rancagua, 40 miles south of the Chilean capital, where authorities are investigating allegations of a network of priests calling themselves “The Family”. They are accused of engaging in abuse, prostitution and homosexuality.
“I reiterate my commitment, and that of the church of Santiago, with the victims, to the search for truth and respect for civil justice,” the cardinal said.
“I firmly believe that I never covered up nor obstructed justice, and as a citizen I will do my duty in providing all the information to help clarify the facts.”
On Sunday, a Chilean newspaper published a leaked letter sent to Cardinal Ezzati in 2013 from Archbishop Alejandro Goic.
Archbishop Goic, who was then head of a national commission for abuse prevention, told the cardinal: “Sometimes I have the impression, perhaps subjective, that you don’t share the views of the national commission in these delicate issues.”
“At the same time, members of the commission share their dissatisfaction with certain cases that you have had to take on,” he continued. “For me, it hasn’t been easy. Maintaining communion with you while respecting and listening to the members’ critical views is a difficult balancing act.”
Pope Francis accepted Archbishop Goic’s resignation in June, just days after he had stood down as head of the abuse prevention commission following an admission that he had taken too long to respond to abuse allegations.
The Chilean Church has been gripped by the child abuse crisis since 2011, when the Vatican found Fr Fernando Karadima guilty of abusing children.
Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Fr Karadima’s victims, said Cardinal Ezzati has “little time left as archbishop of Santiago, but his new mission of answering for his cover-up, lies and other crimes… has just begun.”