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Chilean priest who is uncle of president probed in alleged child sex abuse

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) – The Vatican has launched an investigation into an allegation that a retired archbishop and uncle of Chilean President Sebastian Pinera sexually abused a child more than 50 years ago, the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Chile said on Tuesday.

The mission said it received a complaint against long-retired Bernardino Pinera, who is 103 years old, and that it was trying to determine the “veracity” of the claim.

“We are in contact with the person who presented the complaint, and at the same time, we are operating under a presumption of innocence,” the mission said in a statement.

Pinera, who served as archbishop of La Serena, a coastal city north of the Chilean capital Santiago, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Chilean daily El Mercurio reported that President Pinera, who was travelling on Tuesday, said he found it “difficult to believe an accusation made 50 years after the alleged acts.”

But the president added, “Every accusation should be thoroughly investigated … and that this case is no exception,” according to the newspaper report.

The allegation against the high-profile former archbishop is the latest in a sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has rocked Chile’s Catholic Church. Chilean prosecutors are investigating hundreds of abuse allegations involving more than 200 victims.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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