Pope Francis is sending the Church's top investigator on sexual abuse to Chile to look into allegations against a bishop accused of covering up clergy crimes against minors there, the Vatican said on Tuesday.
A statement said the envoy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, was being dispatched after "new information" had emerged about Bishop Juan Barros of the Chilean city of Osorno.
Controversy over Barros, whom the pope has repeatedly defended, dominated Francis's recent trip to the South American country.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the pope, who just last week told reporters aboard the plane returning from Latin America that he was sure Barros was innocent and that the Vatican had received no concrete evidence against him.
Barros has been accused of protecting his former mentor, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing teenage boys over many years. Karadima denies the allegations, and Barros said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
Scicluna doggedly uncovered evidence of sexual abuse against the late founder of the conservative religious order the Legionaries of Christ during the papacy of Benedict XVI and has a formidable reputation within the Church.