Luis Arce asked Pope Francis for the files on sexual abuse of Catholic priests

Bolivian President, luis mapleapplied this Monday to Pope Francisco youHeard all the files and files on sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests in Bolivia. The request was made after investigations opened by the prosecutor’s office for several cases of pedophilia committed by religious figures in the Latin American country.

Bolivia is shocked by press revelations involving the late Spanish priest Alfonso Pedrajas, who confessed in a private newspaper that abused more than 80 minors in the South American countrywhere it arrived at the beginning of the 1970s. The case, uncovered by the Spanish newspaper The countryderived in at least eight complaints before the Bolivian prosecutor’s office, although the number of victims could rise. The defendants are priests of the Society of Jesus, involving Pedrajas and the other Spanish clerics Luis María Roma, Alejandro Mestre and Antonio Gausset, all deceased.

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Following the discovery, the Bolivian president sent an official letter to Pope Francis to “access all files, files and information” regarding the complaints. This is the first time that a president addresses the Supreme Pontiff directly requesting the opening of the ecclesiastical archives so that Justice can investigate sexual abuse and its cover-up by the Church. “I ask that the Bolivian justice system be able to access all the files, files and information referring to these complaints and acts of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests and religious in Bolivian territory,” Arce said.

These years of impunity cannot be extended indefinitely without the justice establishing the responsibilities and the victims closing an atrocious chapter where the only consolation they will have is the right to the truth, justice and not covering up the events that occurred”, said the president, who assured that he was “dismayed and outraged “By the situation.

The revelation of the personal diary of priest Alfonso Pedrajas triggered a series of complaints of sexual abuse.

Deplorable and aberrational crimes that with absolute impunity were hidden for years, time that passed in apparent normality due to the complicit silence of the local ecclesial structure, which covered them up with an unacceptable indifference and indolence”, Arce maintains in the letter.

In addition, the president maintained that they are not “errors or deviations in conduct,” but rather “They are crimes that harm girls and boys for life, and that also harm the Church”. For this reason, he maintained that it is necessary to carry out “concrete actions, so that there is justice and that these very serious crimes are not committed again, using faith and the Church in search of impunity.”

And he remarked: “As brother Francisco will understand, this situation has provoked in the Bolivian population a deep pain, repudiation and frustration; feeling to which I adhere, as the first president of my country”.

Luis Maria Roma 20230523
Luis María Roma, another of the clergymen accused of sexual abuse of minors.

In addition to the request for access to the documents, the president informed the Pope that his government is working on “mechanisms to strengthen control and review of personal records” for the entry of new foreign Catholic clergy. the bolivian state reserves the right to admit the entry of new foreign priests and religious to national territory who have a history of sexual abuse against minors,” he explained in this regard. The future measure will be carried out with the aim of preventing new crimes of this type from occurring.

Arce affirmed that this mechanism will remain in force until “the revision of the agreements and agreements in force is carried out, and the negotiation of the Agreement between the Plurinational State of Bolivia and the Holy See is concluded.” The president specified that this agreement must include “remedies” that prevent new cases of abuse and its cover-up.

The Bolivian Episcopal Conference confirmed for its part the visit of the Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu to address the issue of sexual abuse in the country. Bartomeu is one of the main officials of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Denunciations of abuses committed by religious in Bolivia

The scandal surrounding the Catholic Church began as a result of a publication in the newspaper The country. April 30, The Spanish outlet published the personal diary of the Jesuit cleric Alfonso Pedrajasbetter known as Father Pica, died in 2009 in Bolivia of cancer at the age of 66.

A relative gave the newspaper his diary written on a laptop in which he says having done “harm to many people (85?), too many”. Furthermore, he acknowledged that he was protected by superior clerics of the Society of Jesus.

Pedrajas settled in Bolivia in 1971 and carried out educational work in various centers until months before he died. The greatest number of abuses were reportedly committed at the Colegio Juan XXIII in the city of Cochabamba, in the center of the country. This institution was a boarding school that received minors with limited economic resources and from rural areas, and also boasted of having a high-level educational training.

Alexander Mestre 20230523
The late priest Alejandro Mestre was also accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Hilarión Baldivieso, from the alumni association of that educational center, concession the abuses in press conference. Also, he indicated that they had denounced “the cover-up” of the Jesuitswhom they accused of having knowledge of the activities of Pedrajas.

After the repercussions of the press revelations, the Bolivian Prosecutor’s Office received at least eight complaints of alleged abuses committed by religious. In this regard, the attorney general, Juan Lanchipa, stated that the complaints were filed in the cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, Tarija (south) and Santa Cruz (east).

Some of the complaints were filed by the Company of Jesus itself. Despite this, Lanchipa expressed his concern for “the negligence that this Catholic organization has had in not having denounced these facts and, rather, provide coverage and protection of these aberrational events“.

“Not only students were abused, but Jesuits in training”: the complaint of a former priest

Former Jesuit priest Pedro Lima revealed to the AFP last Friday that not only sexual abuse was committed against minors, but also also against Jesuits in formation. According to Lima, he was expelled from the Society of Jesus in 2001 for denouncing abuses within the order. However, he recently returned to Bolivia from Paraguay to join the complaints in the Pedrajas case.

The ex-cleric claimed that “Among the victims there are ex-Jesuits who have been trained by this person”. “In summary: he not only abused students, but also Jesuits in training,” he remarked.

Antonio Gausset20230523
Antonio Gausset, was also accused of pedophilia.

The legal advisor of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, Susana Inch, acknowledged that since 2019, when an internal commission was opened to investigate the cases, 12 complaints against priests were received. In this sense, an investigation by the Bolivian newspaper Page Sevenaffirmed the existence there are more than 170 victims.

Last week, the priest milton murillo was arrested accused of alleged rape, while the priest Garvin Grech fled to Argentina due to similar allegations.

The position of the Church

A few days after the revelations about Pedrajas’ diary, the Bolivian Episcopal Conference expressed its regret. “As a Church we condemn these actions, We stand in solidarity with the victims who have suffered acts of sexual abuse, we ask their forgiveness,” they said in a statement.

Added to this, the Society of Jesus also detailed that will make available to justice all cases that are of his knowledge. For its part, the Bolivian Church guarantees the visit of the Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu, envoy from the Vatican, to address the issue of sexual abuse in the country.


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