Vatican sex abuse experts to visit Mexico on "zero tolerance" drive

By Carlos Carrillo and Laura Gottesdiener

MEXICO CITY, March 3 (Reuters) - Two Vatican officials charged with investigating accusations of sexual abuse by clergy will visit Mexico for a fact-finding mission later this month, the Church said on Tuesday.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu will meet with church leaders and alleged victims during their week-long visit to the world's second largest Roman Catholic country, the Mexican bishops' conference said.

Auxiliary Bishop Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, general secretary of the bishops' conference, told a news conference in Mexico City that the Church had requested aid from the Vatican in order to help the youngest and most vulnerable in Mexico.

"We're confident it will improve the response to these cases, looking for civil and canonical justice under the principles of zero tolerance, so that no case goes unpunished in our Church," Miranda said of the March 20-27 visit.

Scicluna and Bertomeu are part of a taskforce created last year by Pope Francis to assist in countries where the Church had no guidance for dealing with sexual abuse cases.

The two led the Vatican's 2018 investigation into sexual abuse in Chile, producing a 2,300-page report that sparked the resignation of several of the country's top bishops.

Scicluna also conducted the Vatican's investigation into Father Marcial Maciel, the late founder of Mexico's Legionaries of Christ Catholic religious order. Maciel was accused of sexually abusing at least 60 boys, some as young as 12.

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Allegations of pedophilia have long plagued the Church in Mexico.

Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera Lopez, President of the Mexican bishops conference, said 271 Mexican priests have been accused of sexual abuse to date.

The bishops' conference said it does not have an estimate of the number of victims. Advocates say there are many more victims than those who have come forward with accusations.

Some expressed reservations about the Vatican's fact-finding mission.

Alberto Athie, a former Mexican priest who has spent more than two decades campaigning on behalf of victims of Church abuse, criticized previous missions for lacking transparency.

"They have tried to handle these things internally, in secret, and resolve them according to the institutional logic of the Church," he told Reuters. (Editing by Dave Graham and Jane Wardell)

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