Protestor accuse Bishop Juan Barros of protecting a priest accused of sexual abuse

A bishop being installed in his new assignment in southern Chile expressed disappointment with hundreds of black-clad demonstrators who interrupted the ceremony by marching into a cathedral and shouting at him to leave the diocese, saying he protected a priest accused of sexual abuse.

“You have to distinguish between showing a disagreement in a good way and this, because interrupting a Mass is a big shame,” Bishop Juan Barros said in reference to the demonstration organised against him on March 21 while he was being installed as new bishop of Osorno.

Witnesses described the scene inside the Cathedral of St Matthew as chaotic.

The New York Times reported that television images showed clashes between the bishop’s supporters, who carried white balloons, and demonstrators, carrying black ones.

The demonstrators, numbering about 3,000 inside and outside the cathedral, according to local media reports, included politicians and members of Congress. They held signs and called for Bishop Barros to resign.

A supporter of Bishop Barros tries to restrain protestors

Chaotic scenes inside the cathedral

They accused the bishop of complicity in the case of Father Fernando Karadima, who the Vatican in 2011 found guilty of sexually abusing minors and ordered him to “retire to a life of prayer and penitence.”

Bishop Barros denied having any relationship with Father Karadima on March 23.

“I’m going to join the community of Osorno,” Bishop Barros said.

The controversy began in January, soon after Pope Francis appointed Bishop Barros to Osorno. Among those objecting to the appointment were former Chilean President Eduardo Frei Montalva and Fr Alex Vigueras, provincial superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Chile.

At least one Chilean bishop said he thought the protesters were “taking political advantage” of the situation.

“It was artificially created and it is not healthy,” said Bishop Cristian Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt, Chile.

Protests related to clerical abuse involving Father Karadima also have occurred at public appearances of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago, and Chile’s national police force has provided a security detail for him since June.