Feb. 21 (UPI) — Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican envoy sent to Chile to investigate allegations of sexual abuse, underwent emergency surgery on Wednesday, the church said.
Scicluna, the archbishop of Malta, was hospitalized in Santiago and underwent emergency gallbladder surgery.
Catholic Bishop’s Conference spokesman Jaime Coiro downplayed the surgery, saying Scicluna’s symptoms were not serious, but “neither are we dealing with a very simple ailment.”
Prior to his hospitalization, Scicluna met with victims of sexual abuse by Father Fernando Karadima, who was convicted in 2011.
Before arriving in Chile, Scicluna visited New York City to interview and gather testimony from Juan Carlos Cruz, who accused Chilean Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid of witnessing Karadima’s sexual abuse.
Scicluna is in Chile to investigate accusations that Barros covered up Karadima’s crimes.
The investigation was scheduled to conclude by Friday but may be extended because of the hospitalization.
Scicluna’s inquiry comes after Pope Francis faced backlash from comments he made while visiting Chile last month. The pope said Jan. 19 that Barros did not commit a crime.
“The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,” the pope said at the village of Iquique. “But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?”
Scicluna met with several victims Tuesday. One, James Hamilton, said he hoped his testimony would lead to better protections for children.
“I hope that in the Chile of the future, there is security for children, there is no statute of limitations on sexual abuse, that Sename [Chile’s government child protection agency] cares for children,” Hamilton said. “It does not matter to me what the Catholic Church determines.”