Archbishop Charles Scicluna has been dispatched to Chile by Pope Francis to look into allegations against a bishop accused of covering up clergy crimes against minors there, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

A statement said Archbishop Scicluna was being dispatched after "new information" had emerged about Bishop Juan Barros of the Chilean city of Osorno.

Archbishop Scicluna is the Vatican's top investigator on child abuse, having previously served as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

He doggedly uncovered evidence of sexual abuse against the late founder of the conservative religious order the Legionaries of Christ during the papacy of Benedict XVI, and has a formidable reputation within the Church.

A papal turnaround

Controversy over Barros, whom the pope has repeatedly defended, dominated Francis's recent trip to the South American country.

It was a remarkable turnaround for the pope, who just last week told reporters aboard the plane returning from Latin America that he was sure Barros was innocent and that the Vatican had received no concrete evidence against him.

Barros has been accused of protecting his former mentor, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing teenage boys over many years. Karadima denies the allegations, and Barros said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

 

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