SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A bishop who has been defended by Pope Francis from critics who accuse him of covering up for Chile's most infamous pedophile priest said Friday that he had no knowledge of the man's sex abuse of young boys.
Bishop Juan Barros also said he didn't help the Rev. Fernando Karadima get a trip to France as the priest testified in court this week. Karadima said that Barros helped him get the trip for the 50th anniversary of his priesthood and that he had a "very sincere friendship" with the bishop.
"I had nothing to do with the trip. I only helped him to enroll to officiate Mass at the Lourdes grotto," Barro said about the Catholic shrine in France.
He also denied knowing about Karadima's crimes. "I participated in the (El Bosque) parish for years, but as I've said before, just because I participated, it doesn't mean I was witness to everything that happened there," Barros said.
Karadima led the parish of El Bosque in Santiago for nearly six decades before the abuse allegations came to light in April 2010. Two months later, the then archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, forwarded the allegations to the Vatican amid an eruption of abuse cases globally.
Victims say allegations against Karadima were reported earlier but were ignored by the cardinal. Errazuriz, who is one of nine cardinals on Pope Francis' key advisory panel, has acknowledged in court testimony that he failed to act on several abuse allegations because he believed them to be untrue.
The Vatican ordered Karadima to a life of penance and prayer in 2011 for abusing young boys. A Chilean judge later dismissed a criminal case against the priest because the statute of limitations had expired, but she determined the abuse allegations were truthful.
"I've never participated in the things that went on there and that led to the sanction" by the Vatican, Barros said.
Three of Karadima's victims are suing Chile's Catholic Church, accusing it of a cover-up and are demanding a total of $640,000 in compensation and a public apology. The church has rejected the accusation.
Abuse victims and Catholic faithful have questioned the pope's recent appointment of Barros as bishop of the southern city of Osorno. At least three of Karadima's victims have said Barros knew of the priest's crimes and did nothing.
Video recently broadcast by a Chilean television channel showed Francis defending Barros.
"Don't let yourselves be led by the noses of the leftists who have plotted this" campaign against Barros, the pope told Chilean visitors at the Vatican.