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Police in Chile retrieved documents from church offices in the cities of Santiago and Rancagua. The investigation implicates 14 priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
Authorities in Chile raided Roman Catholic Church offices in two Chilean cities Wednesday in search for files, investigative reports and documents that could be related to a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Chilean Catholic Church and prompted a formal apology from Pope Francis.
The search took place in the capital city of Santiago and in the nearby city of Rancagua. Prosecutor Emiliano Arias confirmed two "landmark" raids, saying he was satisfied with their outcome.
"In Chile, we are all subject to common justice," said Arias, who led the raid in Santiago.
He added that the raids did not represent "an investigation against the Catholic Church," but an investigation of reports of sex abuse by members of the church who abused minors.
The archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, confirmed that church officials had provided authorities with all the requested information. He added that members of his institution would be "available to cooperate with the civilian justice system in all that is required."
The scandal that has shaken Chile in the recent months centers around allegations of sexual abuse of minors by at least 14 priests. A Chilean media report revealed that the priests had formed a group that they coined "the family," which actively sought sexual relations with children and may have also hired prostitutes.
Several members of the church hierarchy, including former Bishop Juan Barros, were accused by victims of ignoring and covering up years of child abuse by Chilean pedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.
Pope Francis became embroiled in the scandal when he defended the embattled former bishop during his trip to Chile in January. The pope had appointed Barros as bishop of the city Osorno in 2015, even as allegations against him had gone public.
Ultimately, the church rectified its position and Karadima was suspended for life by the Vatican over the allegations of child molestation, while Barros was one of three bishops whose resignations Francis accepted on Monday.
In a letter to Chileans last month, the pontiff expressed his "shame" that the Catholic Church failed "to listen and react in time" to the allegations of sexual abuse by Chilean clergy.
Since 2000, approximately 80 Catholic priests have been reported to authorities in Chile for alleged sexual abuse.
jcg/sms (EFE, dpa, AFP)