SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A bishop was ordained in southern Chile on Saturday amid riot police and shouting protesters who accuse him of covering up crimes of a mentor the Vatican has sanctioned for abusing young boys.
Protestors, background left, shout as Rev. Juan Barros, center left, enters the cathedral for the ceremony to assume as bishop in Osorno, southern Chile, Saturday, March 21, 2015. Barros was ordained amid protests by sex-abuse victims who accuse him of covering up crimes his mentor Rev. Fernando Karadima whom the Vatican has sanctioned for abusing young boys.(AP Photo/Mario Mendoza Cabrera)
Hundreds of churchgoers dressed in the black of mourning denounced the 58-year-old Rev. Juan Barros as he took over as bishop of the southern city of Osorno. Many called for him to immediately resign.
Police had to escort Barros out of the church after his ordination, which was attended by only 15 of the country's 35 bishops and about 20 of the 35 priests in the diocese some 580 miles (930 kilometers) south of Santiago.
Protestors shout as bishops and priests enter the cathedral to attend the ordination ceremony as bishop of Rev. Juan Barros in Osorno, southern Chile, Saturday, March 21, 2015. Barros was ordained amid protests by sex-abuse victims who accuse him of covering up crimes of his mentor Rev. Fernando Karadima whom the Vatican has sanctioned for abusing young boys.(AP Photo/Mario Mendoza Cabrera)
While Barros himself is not accused of molestation, at least three victims of sex abuse say he was present when they were molested by the Rev. Fernando Karadima in the 1980s and 90s.
In this April 8, 2011 photo, Bishop Juan Barros arrives to the Episcopal Conference of Chile in El Quisco, Chile. Barros has been tapped by Pope Francis to become bishop of a southern Chilean diocese in March 2015, provoking an unprecedented outcry by abuse victims and Catholic faithful who contend he covered up sexual abuse committed by his mentor and superior, Rev. Fernando Karadima, in the 1980s and 90s. Barros has declined to comment publicly on allegations against him. (AP Photo/La Tercera)
The controversy has been closely watched by victims, advocacy groups and lawmakers as a test of Pope Francis' promises to crack down on clerical sex abuse.
"I hold the Pope responsible," said Juan Carlos Cruz, a 51-year-old journalist who is one of the accusers.
"As victims, we had become used to the slaps in the face by the Chilean hierarchy, but we never expected a slap in the face from the Pope," he told The Associated Press.
Barros had long declined to comment publicly on allegations against him. However he sent a letter to priests in the diocese on Monday saying he did not know about Karadima's abuses when they happened.
"I never had knowledge of, or could have imagined, the serious abuses that this priest committed against the victims," said the letter.
The Pope confirmed his decision to appoint Barros after he recently met with him.
More than 1,300 church members in Osorno, along with some 30 priests from the diocese and 51 of Chile's 120 congress members sent letters to Francis last month urging him to rescind the appointment.
A Vatican investigation found Karadima, one of Chile's most prominent priests, guilty of sex abuse in 2011 and sentenced the now 84-year-old priest to a cloistered life of "penitence and prayer."
Criminal charges against him were thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired.
Cruz said that he and another teen boy would lie down on Karadima's bed, one resting his head at the man's shoulder, another sitting near his feet. The priest would kiss the boys and grope them, he said, while Barros watched.
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