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Vatican investigator meets Chile abuse victim in New York

© AFP/File | Pope Francis has come under fire for defending a bishop accused of orchestrating a cover-up of child sex abuse in Chile

NEW YORK (AFP) - 

A high-profile victim of a disgraced pedophile priest said Saturday he was glad to finally be able to tell his story as the Vatican's top abuse investigator began a probe into an alleged cover-up in Chile.

Pope Francis has come under fire for defending a bishop accused of orchestrating the cover-up.

"For the first time I feel they are listening to us," Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of priest Fernando Karadima, told reporters in New York after a meeting that lasted about an hour and a half with Archbishop Charles Scicluna in a Manhattan church.

He added: "It was a long, emotionally difficult meeting, but I am very happy to have been able to speak with Mr. Scicluna, they behaved incredibly well."

Karadima was accused of abusing children in 2010, and convicted by the Vatican to a life of penitence.

Scicluna, who prosecuted cases involving predator priests for the Vatican's doctrinal body from 2002 to 2012, is set to visit Chile from Monday as part of his investigation into Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up and even witnessing Karadima's abuse which took place during the 1980s and 1990s.

Controversy over the 61-year-old Barros marred Pope Francis' trip to Chile last month, when he hugged and defended the bishop.

In 2015, Francis appointed Barros the head of the diocese of Osorno in southern Chile despite the accusations against him.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak," the pope said during his Chile visit.

He later apologized to sexual abuse victims, acknowledging the word "proof" had hurt many people.

Following his statement, Cruz said that he gave Scicluna documents to support his accusations against Barros, and discussed other abuses involving priests in the South American country.

Nearly 80 Catholic clergymen stand accused of sexually abusing children in Chile, according to the US NGO BishopAccountability, which tracks cases.

"As I told him my story and the stories of others, his eyes welled up. He was not acting, his compassion and empathy were evident," Cruz said.

© 2018 AFP