158 members of Chilean Catholic Church to be investigated in sexual abuse scandal

Published 23.07.2018 21:42
Updated 24.07.2018 00:21
emAFP Photo/em
AFP Photo

Bishops, priests and lay people are among 158 members of Chile's Catholic Church under investigation for perpetrating or concealing the sexual abuse of children and adults, the public prosecutor revealed on Monday.

The cases relate to 144 separate investigations into incidents dating back as far as 1960 and involving 266 victims, including 178 children and adolescents, according to details given at a press conference by prosecutor Luis Torres.

The prosecutor's statement offered the first general view of the extent and scope of the abuse scandal faced by Chile's Catholic Church -- and how many people are implicated.

Last month, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of five Chilean bishops amid accusations of abuse and related cover-ups.

"The vast majority of reported incidents relate to sexual crimes committed by priests or people linked to educational establishments," Torres told reporters.

The entire strata of the Catholic church -- from bishops to monks -- were involved in the crimes, as well as "lay people exercising some function in the ecclesiastical sphere," he noted.

In May, the entire Chilean hierarchy of bishops had tendered their resignations over the abuse scandal rocking the Church.

Since 2000, about 80 Catholic priests have been reported to authorities in Chile for alleged sexual abuse.

Ten days ago, prominent priest Oscar Munoz was arrested over allegations of sexual abuse and rape of at least seven children.

Pope Francis has repeatedly apologized to parishioners over the scandal, admitting the Church failed "to listen and react" to allegations spanning decades, but vowed to "restore justice."

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