(Reuters) – Attorneys for Chile’s most senior cleric said on Friday they will ask a judge to drop charges he covered up sexual abuse amid a scandal that has rocked the Chilean Roman Catholic Church and prompted a major civil investigation.
The ongoing church sex abuse scandal in the Andean nation has prompted Pope Francis to open an investigation that has led to the resignations of several bishops and priests.
Lawyers for Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, have requested more time to prepare their case after Ezzati was originally due to be questioned by a civil prosecutor last month.
Ezzati’s defence team, which includes lawyer Hugo Rivera, has determined that the archbishop’s case does not qualify as a “cover-up,” Rivera told reporters on Friday.
“After a long review of the background … we are totally and absolutely convinced that this case does not meet the requirements established by law,” Rivera said.
The lawyers said they are due to discuss a settlement to dismiss the charges with prosecutors before a judge in the central Chilean city of Rancagua on Oct. 5.
The sex abuse crisis has gripped Chile’s Catholic Church since 2011, when Chilean priest Fernando Karadima was found guilty by the Vatican of abusing children in the 1970s and 1980s. The allegations prompted a probe that has led to the ousting of bishops and other priests.
All of Chile’s 34 bishops offered to resign en masse in May after attending a meeting with the pope over allegations of a cover-up.
Earlier on Friday, Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing the total to seven.
With the latest resignations, the pope has removed the leadership of about 20 percent of the Latin American country’s dioceses.
(Reporting by Antonio de la Jara in Santiago; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Matthew Lewis)