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Pope's envoys in Chile call for justice for sex abuse victims

© AFP/File | Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna, left, is the Vatican's top investigator into child sex abuse in Chile's Church

SANTIAGO (AFP) - 

The Vatican's top investigator called Tuesday for justice for child sex abuse victims of Chile's Catholic Church as fresh cases involving pedophile priests came to light.

Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna spoke as he wound up a weeklong mission to Chile, where a child sex abuse scandal has rocked the Church.

"Investigating is a duty of justice, we need to do justice to the victims for the good of the country and the good of the Church," Scicluna told reporters.

Shortly before leaving Santiago airport, Scicluna testified as a witness in one of the sexual abuse cases being investigated by Chilean state authorities.

It was Scicluna's second visit in four months to Chile in a scandal that has directly embroiled Pope Francis and led to the resignation of some 34 bishops, only three of which have been accepted by the pope.

Several members of the Chilean church hierarchy are accused by victims of ignoring and covering up child abuse by Chilean pedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.

Dioceses in the southern cities of Temuco and Aysen said four more priests were being investigated for the sexual abuse of minors.

In a statement, Church authorities in Temuco reported that Pablo Isler Venegas was punished in 2015 for the sexual abuse of minors, and prohibited from publicly practicing as a priest or working with adolescents and young people.

Scicluna told reporters that "recognizing and admitting the full truth, with all its painful repercussions and consequences, is the starting point for authentic healing, both for the victims and the author of the abuses."

- Victim outreach -

Scicluna and another papal envoy, Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeo, said they had taken testimony from sexual abuse victims during their stay, and set up a victim outreach or "listening service" to help others come forward.

Francis's defense of one of the bishops at the heart of the scandal, Juan Barros, tainted his visit to the country earlier this year.

At the time, the pontiff said he was convinced that Barros was innocent and demanded "proof" before he would speak out against him.

Francis later apologized to the victims, three of whom he recently received at the Vatican, and admitted he had made "grave mistakes" after reading a 2,300-page report by Scicluna on the abuse in Chile.

He accepted Barros's resignation last week.

© 2018 AFP