Pope sends sex crimes expert to Chile to investigate bishop

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is sending the Vatican’s most respected sex crimes expert to Chile to investigate a bishop accused by abuse victims of covering up for the country’s most notorious pedophile priest.

The Vatican said Tuesday that Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna would travel to Chile “to listen to those who have expressed the desire to provide elements” about the case of Bishop Juan Barros.

The Barros controversy dominated Francis’ just-ended trip to Chile. While in Chile, Francis accused victims of Barros’ mentor, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, of slander. The victims say Barros was aware of Karadima’s abuse but stood by and did nothing. Barros denies the charges.

Francis seemed unaware that victims had placed Barros at the scene.

He staunchly stood by the bishop, telling reporters that he believed him innocent.