SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – The special envoy sent by Pope Francis to investigate allegations that a bishop had covered up sex abuse was undergoing gallbladder surgery Wednesday in Chile, church officials said.
The curia for Charles Scicluna’s archdiocese in Malta announced the surgery in a brief statement.
The spokesman for the Chilean Catholic bishop’s conference, Jaime Coiro, said Scicluna was stable and conscious and said he wasn’t expected to remain hospitalized more than two days.
The bishop’s conference said Scicluna had been suffering pain since last week.
The Maltese archbishop entered the hospital Tuesday after starting his interviews with victims and others opposed to the appointment of a bishop accused of covering up for the country’s most notorious pedophile priest.
Coiro said the pope has asked that interviews with witnesses continue Wednesday through Friday as planned. They are to be handled by Jordi Bertomeu, a Spanish priest who has been serving as Scicluna’s translator and notary.
Scicluna came to Chile to investigate complaints about Bishop Juan Barros, who has been strongly defended until now by the pope.
Barros has been accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring the abuse of young parishioners by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was removed from ministry and sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” in 2010.
Barros has denied knowing of the abuse.
Barros has been a bishop since 1995, but his 2015 appointment to the city of Osorno by Francis caused outrage after the Karadima scandal had eroded the Catholic Church’s credibility in Chile. He has faced protests in Osorno by priests and lay Catholics who question how someone who says he never saw anything suspicious at the parish could be trusted to protect Osorno’s children today.
Jose Andres Murillo, one of the three victims who have spoken publicly of abuse of Karadima and have accused Barros of a cover-up, came Wednesday to meet with the investigators.