Pope Francis is aware of the suffering that abuse survivors and all Catholics in Chile have endured following the revelations of abuse and cover-up and is doing everything possible to accompany them, said the new apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Santiago.
Bishop Celestino Aos Braco of Copiapo, Chile, told journalists at the Vatican on Monday that the pope conveyed a message to the faithful in the country.
“Tell them that I am close to the Chilean people,” Bishop Aos quoted the pope as saying. The pope wants people to know that “he is working hard to give the faithful of Chile the best governance, the best possible pastoral assistance. He realises that he is the shepherd of all the shepherds in the world and he wants the Church in Chile to know that they are not only living through a difficult time, a very painful time, but also a time of action.”
Pope Francis, who chose Bishop Aos in March to lead the archdiocese temporarily after accepting the resignation of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, met with the bishop last Friday “for more than an hour.” During the private meeting, the Spain-born bishop told journalists, he discussed the situation in the archdiocese, including the fallout of the abuse crisis.
Although there are several auxiliary bishops in Santiago, Bishop Aos said he asked the pope to name new auxiliary bishops who can help him with the governance of the archdiocese.
“The (auxiliary bishops) who are there are involved in other committees and tasks,” he explained. “That is why I find myself not only new there, but alone as well.”
Bishop Aos also met on Monday with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston who, like Bishop Aos, is a member of the Capuchins.
As a fellow bishop who was brought in to lead a archdiocese dealing with the scandal of clergy sex abuse, Bishop Aos said he valued the cardinal’s advice and experience.
Cardinal O’Malley “told me the things he did in Boston” and the solutions they implemented, the bishop said.
Bishop Aos told journalists that the Church is committed to following the law and compensating survivors who have sued the Catholic Church in the country.
“We are Chilean citizens, we do not have the privileges of first-class citizens nor can we be considered any other category,” the bishop said. “We are accountable to civil law and if there is a person in the Church – be it a layperson, a priest, a bishop – who commits a crime, he or she must submit to the courts and must accept the consequences of their actions.”
Photo: Chilean Bishop Celestino Aos Braco of Copiapo, the new apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Santiago, speaks to journalists outside the Vatican on Monday.