Laypeople and clerical sex abuse victims from Chile are warning Portuguese Catholics that the new papal ambassador in the country is a “demon” and an “evildoer” responsible for the cover-ups of priestly pedophilia.

Driving the news

On Thursday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had named Ivo Scapolo as his new representative in Portugal.

Scapolo, a 66 year-old Italian prelate, has been the nuncio in Chile since 2011.

Before that, he served as papal ambassador in Bolivia (2002-2008) and Rwanda (2008-2011).

The intrigue

In his eight years as the Pope’s representative in Chile, Scapolo has often courted great controversy.

Most notably for advancing the careers of clerics close to Fernando Karadima, a notorious pedophile priest.

In 2015, for example, Scapolo was among those responsible for the appointment of Juan Barros as Bishop of Osorno.

According to victims, however, Barros had witnessed and covered up Karadima’s abuse.

The fierce protests of laypeople and victims of Barros’ appointment eventually dragged the Pope into the fray.

During his visit to Chile in January 2018, Francis vehemently defended Barros from the cover-up allegations.

The Pope was later forced to apologise for his “serious mistakes in judgment and perception” on both the Barros case and on the flood of other sex abuse cases in Chile.

Mistakes that observers attributed to his eyes and ears in Chile, Ivo Scapolo.

For the record

Survivors of Karadima’s abuses, along with laypeople struggling to rebuild the Chilean Church after the sex abuse scandal, welcomed Scapolo’s departure from the country.

Karadima victim and defender of sex abuse survivors José Andrés Murillo said Scapolo “represents a culture within the Church that has favored abuse and cover-up for years”.

“Not only this, but also silence, secrecy, shadiness, and that is exactly what needs to be changed, if is that there is a real will to fight against child sexual abuse, against abuse of power, against abuse of conscience, and to generate a healthier culture within the Church and within society in general”, added Murillo, calling on the Vatican to initiate an investigation into its diplomat.

Another Karadima survivor, Juan Carlos Cruz, declared on Twitter that Scapolo “is one of the men who destroyed the Church in Chile”.

“People of Portugal, watch out for this demon”, added Cruz, also calling Scapolo an “evildoer”.

For his part, the secretary of the Network of Laypeople in Osorno, Juan Carlos Claret, warned that “today Chile rids itself of a sinister person, but Portugal receives a nuncio that should not remain in office”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.