Protests against Chile bishop accused of concealing paedophile priest

Protestors also gathered against Bishop Juan Barros at Osorno cathedral, south of Santiago in March last year.Carlos Gutierrez/Reuters

Protestors in Chile have demanded the resignation of a bishop accused of concealing sex abuse allegations against a priest.

About 30 demonstrators stood outside St Matthew's Cathedral in Orsono, carrying green balloons and signs demanding the resignation of Bishop Juan Barros. The protest last Saturday marked the first anniversary of the announcement of his appointment by Pope Francis in Rome. On the same day, a delegation of bishops from Chile had an audience with the Pope at the Vatican.

The protestors, who have formed a group called Lay Men and Women of Osorno, said in a statement: "We're Catholics who oppose the pastoral exercise of Bishop Barros." They described their protest as "liturgical occupation." There are about 125,000 Catholics in the diocese.

Osorno is a small diocese in southern Chile with a Catholic population of roughly 125,000.

It has been alleged that Bishop Barros concealed sex abuse allegations against Father Fernando Karadima, a well-known local priest connected to Chile's elite. In 2011, Karadima was sentenced by the Holy See to a life of "penance and prayer" after being found guilty of paedophilia and abuse of his position.

Victims of Father Karadima have claimed that Barros and three other Chilean bishops covered up for him during the 1980s and 1990s. There have been no formal charges of concealment in Chile or Rome against any of the bishops.

In a video filmed by a tourist in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis can be seen defending the appointment of Barros. He told Jaime Coiro, a former spokesman of the Chilean bishops, that the local Church in Chile has "lost its head" and has allowed a group of politicians to judge a bishop "with no proof whatsoever."

"Think with the head, don't be led around by the nose by these leftists who are the ones who put this together," the Pope said.

The Pope also said the accusations against the bishops had been "dismissed".

He said: "I am the first one to judge and punish someone who's being accused of these things, but in this case, there's no proof. On the contrary, from the heart, I tell you. Let's see if you help me with this, but don't be led by the nose by these who're trying to create a havoc, that are looking for slander."