Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, one of the Vatican’s top sex crimes investigators, arrived in Bolivia as Pope Francis’ special envoy as the Latin American nation is being rocked by a growing pedophilia scandal involving priests. President Luis Arce had sent a letter to the pontiff in which he asked him to review the background of the religious.
Alleged cases of sexual abuse against minors within the Catholic Church generate a wave of complaints and investigations in Bolivia.
Pope Francis sent Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, one of its main investigators on sexual crimes, to the Andean nation, just at a time when a pedophilia scandal involving priests is being recorded.
For its part, the Bolivian Episcopal Conference pointed out that Bertomeu’s visit is not directly related to the recent complaints, but that it had been previously planned to analyze “advances in the field of the culture of prevention” promoted by the Vatican.
However, Bertomeu is currently focusing on inquiries of this type. He arrived on Bolivian soil from Paraguay, where he had been investigating similar accusations against Church officials.
The expert had already been in charge, in 2018, of an investigation into abuses committed by priests against minors in Chile.
Bertomeu “is a very trustworthy person for Pope Francis, who is in charge of addressing these issues, and he comes to give some guidelines on how we can handle this matter, listen to and support the victims,” said the secretary of the Episcopal Conference. , Monsignor Giovani Arana.
The origin of the pedophilia scandal in Bolivia
Authorities are investigating whether any Catholic Church official in the country should be held accountable following the publication of a diary by the late Spanish Jesuit priest Alfonso Pedrajas, which contained multiple confessions of child abuse.
According to private texts accessed by the Spanish newspaper ‘El País’, Pedrajas allegedly abused some 85 minors in Catholic boarding schools in Bolivia in the 1970s and 1980s. The priest died of cancer in 2009.
In addition, after his death, his nephew found a 300-page diary on his computer in which Pedrajas confessed to having sexually abused dozens of minors also in the 1970s.
One of the most shocking confessions recorded in the diary relies on the fact that Pedrajas wrote that he had spoken to his superiors about what he had done, but they did nothing about it.
After the information was disclosed by the Spanish newspaper last April, complaints from former students have been triggered about other cases of sexual abuse in schools run by religious in Bolivia, including Jesuits, but also Dominicans, Franciscans and other orders of the Catholic Church.
“Apologies are not enough, these abuses cannot go unpunished”
In the midst of the avalanche of accusations, the Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation and called on the victims to present their complaints to the authorities.
“I am not only a witness, but also a victim of abuse of power, sexual abuse and abuse of conscience by the Jesuit Society in Bolivia,” said Pedro Lima, a former Bolivian Jesuit seminarian considered an important witness in this investigation..
In addition, Lima, who testified before the accusing body on Monday, May 22, accused three Jesuits of covering up the alleged abuses.
The former Bolivian Jesuit priest, Pedro Lima, assured on Friday in Bolivia that the deceased Spanish priest Alfonso Pedrajas, denounced for abusing more than 80 minors, also committed sexual abuse of Jesuits in training. /Video: AFP pic.twitter.com/UzIVczJBvA
— THE DUTY (@grupoeldeber) May 20, 2023
The Society of Jesuits in Bolivia apologized to the victims and promised to support the investigation, but for those who suffered harassment at the hands of religious, apologies are not enough.
“Apologies are not enough, these abuses cannot go unpunished. There must be reparation for the victims, and I am here to ensure that these painful events never happen again,” said Lima, who declined to provide details about the alleged abuses he suffered.
Arce asks Pope Francis to review the priests’ records
In recent years, different countries in Europe and America, among other parts of the planet, have exposed thousands of sexual abuses committed by priests, bishops or other members of the Catholic clergy.
In many of the cases, the investigators have pointed out that they were recurring crimes, in which there was a cover-up for years.
Now, when his country is shaken by the same type of accusations, the Bolivian president, Luis Arce, sent a letter to the highest representative of the Vatican in which he asks for a joint review of the background of foreign religious who entered his nation. .
“This situation has caused deep pain, repudiation and frustration in the Bolivian population, feelings to which I adhere as the first president of my country,” Arce said in the letter that was read to the media by the Minister of the Presidency , Maria Nela Prada.
The Head of State expressed his repudiation and rejection of the sexual assaults denounced from his country. In addition, he asked the Pope that more than communications from the Vatican, he expects actions so that there is “justice and that these acts are not committed again using faith and the Church in search of impunity.”
With AP and EFE
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