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Vatican investigates sexual abuse allegations at Roman Catholic society in Peru

By Claudia Rebaza, Antonia Mortensen and Tara John, CNN

(CNN) — Vatican investigators looking into sexual abuse allegations at a Roman Catholic society in Peru have completed the first stage of their audit and will issue a report in the coming months, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told CNN Friday.

“The first stage, gathering information, was concluded last Saturday. Now they will be working on the documentation they have, in order to present a report in the coming months,” Bruni said.

Asked last Wednesday about the investigation, Pope Francis said: “We are working on this. We are trying to bring the situation to light.”

Pope Francis’s special envoys, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, arrived in Peru’s capital Lima at the end of July to investigate sexual abuse allegations at Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana, or Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV). The visit was announced by Peru’s Episcopal Conference on July 22.

SCV said its members, who were summoned by the Vatican’s envoys, have “collaborated diligently” and reiterated its commitment to working with the Vatican. It added that the society has provided updated documentation on a reparation process for the victims.

SCV, which has chapters across Latin America, has been mired in scandal since allegations emerged that its founder, the layman Luis Fernando Figari, had sexually abused several young male recruits.

In 2016, Figari denied the allegations publicly for the first time. “I’m innocent, totally innocent. I come here to tell the truth because the authorities have not allowed me to speak,” Figari told reporters in Rome. He also claimed SCV authorities banned him from speaking and traveling to Lima.

A few months later, in 2017, a criminal case against him and other SCV members – for sexual abuse, kidnapping, serious psychological injuries, and illicit association to commit a crime – was dropped by Peru’s prosecutor’s office.

Peruvian prosecutors said in the case of sexual abuse, none of the alleged victims came forward and the crime fell under the statute of limitations.

A criminal case against Figari and other SCV members, alleging kidnapping, serious psychological injuries, and illicit association to commit a crime, is still ongoing.

In 2017, SCV published a two-part report by international experts that found that more than a dozen men and three women had reported of being sexually abused when they were young adults by SCV members.

“None of those accused of abusing a minor remain attached to the Sodalitium, except for Luis Fernando Figari, who by determination of the Holy See has been separated from community life,” SCV’s superior general at the time said at the start of the report.

SCV said in 2017 Figari had been removed from the community, banned from contacting members, and prohibited by Vatican authorities from returning to Peru.

“Fulfilling the order of the Holy See, Mr. Figari will be provided with the adequate conditions for a restrained life, of seclusion and prayer, due to the serious acts committed,” it added at the time.

Catholic leaders in Peru have welcomed the Vatican’s inquiry. “I think it is excellent that this matter is investigated in depth, that the people involved are listened to and I am sure that the report will be fair and objective for the good of all,” Peru’s Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos said in a statement.

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