We use our own and third party cookies to improve your user experience; by continuing to browse, we understand that you accept their use. You can get more information on our cookies policy.

Rome Reports

You are using an outdated browser

In order to deliver the greatest experience to our visitors we use cutting edge web development techniques that require a modern browser. To view this page please use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer 11 or greater

Keys to the Barros case


Juan Barros is a Chilean bishop who some accuse of covering up abuse by priest Fernando Karadima. The latter was an admired pastor in Santiago, until it was discovered he had abused numerous young people since the 1980s. In 2011, the Vatican convicted him and barred him from pastoral work. 

Juan Barros was one of the young people spiritually guided by Karadima and one of his collaborators in a Chilean parish. 

In 1995, John Paul II appointed Barros as bishop.

Twenty years later, in 2014, when Pope Francis transferred Barros to the city of Osorno, Karadima had already been convicted. Criticism of Barros then intensified, with groups of lay people and priests receiving him with black balloons and protests.  


One of Karadima's victims accuses Barros of witnessing abuse when he was a priest and doing nothing to stop it. 

In addition, he says when Barros was the archbishop of Santiago's secretary, he followed Karadima's lead to influence his boss' decisions. 

Thus, the victim is asking Pope Francis revoke his title as bishop. 

Barros denies all accusations. 

The situation came to a head during the pope's trip to Chile, as the Holy Father asked for forgiveness for the abuse. Victims were upset that the bishop still participated in his ceremonies. 


Pope Francis assures no evidence confirming the accusations has been presented and is calling for victims to present proof. 

“The day they bring me evidence against Bishop Barros, I'll begin talking. There is not one piece of evidence against him. Everything is slander. Is that clear?”

“In the case of Barros, it was observed, it was studied... there's no evidence. That's what I meant to say. I don't have evidence to convict him. If I convicted him without evidence, or without moral certainty, I would commit an offense of a bad judge. The best thing to do, he or she who believes it's the case, provide the evidence quickly. If they believe that's truly the case. At this time, I don't believe it's so, because there's no evidence. My heart is open to receive it, though.”

Following these words, it was revealed that Cardinal Sean O'Malley had given Pope Francis a letter in 2015 containing testimony from one of the victims, but it was unclear whether the pope had read it or not. 


To listen to the victims in New York and Chile, the Holy Father has sent his former abuse prosecutor, Maltese bishop Charles Scicluna – who for years had investigated other cases, like the one that led to Marcial Maciel's conviction. 

Pope Francis will make his decision following a briefing from the ex-prosecutor. 

The only certainty is that it will be a difficult one.