SANTIAGO, Chile — A close adviser of Pope Francis has left the “C9,” the Pope’s body of cardinal advisers, as he faces charges of covering up clerical sex abuse in his home country of Chile.
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, archbishop emeritus of Santiago, told Radio Cooperativa that he has officially left the council of cardinals and noted that it was not a resignation but the end of his term. He said he traveled to Rome to bid farewell to Pope Francis and to thank him.
The announcement came at the same time that a Chilean court said it is summoning the cardinal on charges that he protected Father Jorge Laplagne, who is accused of sexual abuse of minors.
Victims of sex abuse have also filed a complaint with the Chilean court against Cardinal Errazuriz for “false testimony” in the case of former priest Fernando Karadima, who has been found guilty by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the sexual abuse of minors.
The cardinal is also accused of “misinforming” Pope Francis on the role that Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros of Madrid, bishop emeritus of Osorno, played in covering up the abuse of Karadima. Bishop Barros has also been accused of covering up of the abuse of minors committed by Father Pedro Quiroz.
For a time, Pope Francis publicly defended Bishop Barros, calling the accusations against him “calumny.” He apologized during a meeting with Chilean sex-abuse victims for being “part of the problem” and for originally dismissing their concerns.
In May, all of the Chilean bishops presented their resignations to the Holy Father en masse. Thus far, seven of those resignations have been accepted by Francis.
In July of this year, the Chilean prosecutor’s office released a list of 266 persons who were victims of clerical sex abuse as minors, a number that the country’s bishops called “alarming.”
Prosecutor Sergio Moya could not confirm when Cardinnal Errázuriz was scheduled to appear before the court.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of Karadima who met privately with Pope Francis in May, told Cooperativa that it was “very good news” for abuse survivors that Cardinal Errázuriz was called before the courts. He added that he was “not surprised at all” that the cardinal had been accused of mishandling abuse cases.