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Cardinal Ezzati leaves Santiago with ‘head held high’

Cardinal Ezzati (Getty)

The cardinal has faced accusations of covering up abuse

Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, whose resignation as Archbishop of Santiago was accepted Saturday, said he is leaving office “very grateful” and with his “head held high” regarding the way the archdiocese dealt with cases of sexual abuse and cover-up.

Ezzati, 77, has faced accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of several abusive priests. His resignation was accepted on March 23.

The current crisis of the Church in Chile is a consequence of the uncovering of a great number of cases of sexual abuse and the abuse of authority and conscience as well as cover-up by members of the clergy.

In that context Ezzati is facing the civil justice system, accused of allegedly covering up sexual abuse by the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Fr. Oscar Muñoz Toledo.

At a press conference Ezzati said that the crisis in the Church in Chile “without a doubt has been the greatest sorrow of this time.”

But he stated that “every complaint has been addressed and consequently we will have to wait for what the justice system will say about this. It’s not enough for them to say that someone has covered up, it has to be proven, and I hold my head high, confident that that will not be shown.”

He also said that the archdiocese has cooperated with the civil justice system, “has had open doors,” and “the prosecutor has requisitioned the documents he has wanted” in the different raids carried out in the context of the investigations.

Regarding the accusations against him, the cardinal explained that “all the complaints that have come to the OPADE (Pastoral Office for Complaints) have been investigated or are being investigated.”

Asked about the petition to dismiss the case requested by his defense lawyer, in the case of the former chancellor, Ezzati said that he has asked the prosecutor’s office to deliver the necessary documents but “we haven’t gotten them and we still don’t have them.”

“For now I am availing myself of my right to remain silent which Chilean legislation offers me. I will speak at the appropriate time. My lawyer knows the day and the hour to speak,” he said.

When Ezzati’s resignation was accepted, Pope Francis also appointed Bishop Celestino Aós Braco of Copiapó as apostolic administrator Santiago.

Ezzati thanked Pope Francis for his gesture, “which naturally conforms to a criterion of canon law.”

“The Holy Father Francis, with kindness, fraternity, with a great sense of closeness to the Church of Santiago, has decided to appoint an apostolic administrator. I am happy with the action of the Holy Father,” the cardinal said.

“I have profound respect and love for Bishop Aós. I believe he will carry out a very important task and I ask everyone that in this difficult time, I ask at least all Catholics that they go on and support the new apostolic administrator and the Church of Santiago with their prayers and closeness,” Cardinal Ezzati concluded.