Pope Francis revived a commission on child sex abuse on the same day that a man detailed his claims against a Chilean priest in a New York meeting with a Vatican sex crimes investigator.The twin Saturday events marked major developments in the Vatican’s bid to quell a growing firestorm over the Pope’s handling of the priest abuse scandal.
Whistleblower Juan Carlos Cruz emerged from a three-hour meeting with Archbishop Charles Scicluna saying that he finally felt the Vatican was listening to his claims against Bishop Juan Barros.
Cruz and two others have come forward alleging that Barros witnessed — and has since tried to cover up — the abuse inflicted on them by Chile’s most notorious predator priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima.
“For the first time I felt that someone is listening,” Cruz said after the meeting at the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Manhattan.
“I think (Scicluna) was sincerely moved by what I was saying. He cried.”
Francis ignited fresh outrage during a visit to Chile last month when he defended Barros as the target of a smear campaign.
“The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,” Francis said at the time. “But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander
The backlash prompted the Pope to dispatch Scicluna to investigate the multiple allegations against Madrid.
Cruz, a Chilean national who now lives in Philadelphia, described their meeting as “intense, detailed and eye-opening.”
Cruz said the archbishop had “tears in his eyes” as the victim recounted the abuse he suffered at the hands of Karadima.
Cruz has previously said that Karadima would kiss and fondle younger priests and teens.
“There are thousands of other victims around the world that need to be believed and heard and given the same treatment and respect that I have received today,” Cruz said.
Also Saturday, Francis reactivated a panel on child sex abuse after taking heat for failing to renew the commission’s three-year mandate when it expired in December.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was reinstalled to head the group known as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
“The Holy Father has ensured continuity in the work of our commission, which is to assist local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm,” Cardinal O’Malley said in a statement.
The group’s 16 members will feature nine new members including sex abuse survivors who asked to remain anonymous, the Vatican said.
Other survivors had resigned from the old commission claiming that it was ineffective.
Irish victim Marie Collins, after quitting March 1, accused Vatican officials of stonewalling the panel’s work, calling it “unacceptable” and “devastating.”