Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, a leading member of the church’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, arrived in Bolivia on the same day as a former Jesuit seminarian landed in the country vowing to reveal more information about alleged cases of abuse.
The Bolivian Episcopal Conference said Bertomeu’s visit is not directly related to the recent sex abuse allegations but had been planned earlier to analyze “the progress made in the field of the culture of prevention” promoted by the Vatican.
Bertomeu arrived in Bolivia from Paraguay, where he had been investigating similar accusations against church officials and in 2018 he led the investigation into abuses committed by priests against minors in Chile.
The meetings in Bolivia “will be conducted in an atmosphere of profound closeness to all those who have been victims of the scourge of abuse in the Church,” the Episcopal Conference said in a statement.
Bertomeu “is a person of great trust to Pope Francis, who is responsible for addressing these issues, and he is coming to provide some guidance on how we can handle this issue, listen to and support the victims,” said Monsignor Giovani Arana, the Episcopal Conference’s secretary.
The visit comes soon after case of Spanish Jesuit Alfonso Pedrajas became public. According to a private diary accessed by the Spanish newspaper El País, Pedrajas allegedly abused about 85 minors in Catholic boarding schools in Bolivia in the 1970s and 1980s. He died of cancer in 2009.
The Prosecutor’s Office has initiated an investigation, which remains confidential, and has called on victims to file complaints.
The Jesuit Society in Bolivia has apologized to the victims and pledged to support the investigation while denouncing Pedrajas’ superiors for an alleged cover up. Many of the superiors are no longer in office or have died.
Pedro Lima, a former Bolivian Jesuit seminarian considered an important witness, has vowed to cooperate with the investigation. His arrival in Bolivia coincide with Bertomeu’s.