SANTIAGO (Reuters) – The Chilean government asked the Vatican on Tuesday to hand over documents related to accusations of sex abuse committed by clergy in Chile against minors, as local prosecutors stepped up raids of Roman Catholic Church offices in Santiago.
Chilean prosecutors said in a statement that the Chilean foreign ministry, through its embassy in Italy, had requested from the Vatican information relating to nine clergy members accused of abuse.
Police on Tuesday also searched Chile’s Episcopal Conference – the offices of the Church leadership – an effort prosecutors said was intended to look for evidence of accusations made about members of the Marist Brothers religious community.
Church officials declined to comment Tuesday afternoon. In a bishops assembly earlier this month, the Episcopal Conference said it was committed to collaborating with civil authorities on abuse cases.
An ongoing scandal into accusations of sexual abuse and cover-up within the Church in Chile has prompted Pope Francis to begin an investigation that has led to the resignations of several bishops and priests.
Chilean prosecutors have said they are investigating 38 cases of sex crimes committed by clergy and lay people against minors and adults. There are 73 people under investigation and 104 victims, most of whom were minors at the time of the abuse.
Prosecutor Raul Guzman told reporters on Tuesday that police had collected documents and computers from the Episcopal Conference and had begun to process the information.
The raid is the latest of several on offices of senior church figures in Chile, as prosecutors seek evidence to support accusations of sexual abuse by clergy not reported to the civilian police.
(Reporting by Antonio de la Jara; Writing by Cassandra Garrison, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)