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Sexual Abuse Allegations against the Clergy Shake Bolivia

The case of Spanish Jesuit Alfonso Pedrajas has sparked a wave of abuse allegations against not only Jesuits but also Dominicans, Franciscans, diocesans, and other Catholic orders in Bolivia

As more cases of pedophilia come to light, following a high-profile scandal shaking the Catholic Church in Bolivia, Pope Francis has sent one of the most important members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the South American country.


Spanish investigator Jordi Bertomeu arrived on Monday from Paraguay, where he was investigating similar allegations. In 2018, he led the investigation into abuses committed by priests against minors in Chile.


The Vatican official's visit comes shortly after the eruption of the case involving Spanish Jesuit Alfonso Pedrajas, who, according to a personal diary accessed by the Spanish newspaper El País, allegedly abused around 85 minors in Catholic boarding schools in Bolivia during the 1970s and 1980s. Pedrajas died of cancer in 2009.


Pedrajas settled in Bolivia in 1971 and worked in various educational centers until a few months before his death. The majority of the abuses are said to have occurred at the Juan XXIII School in the city of Cochabamba, located in the center of the country.


Juan XXIII was a boarding school that admitted children from low-income backgrounds and rural areas, boasting a high-quality educational program. Hilarión Baldivieso, from the alumni association of that educational institution, confirmed the abuses in a press conference and stated that they had reported the Jesuits' knowledge of Pedrajas' activities, accusing them of covering up the incidents.


The Prosecutor's Office has initiated an investigation, which is currently confidential, and has called on victims to come forward and file complaints. Meanwhile, the Society of Jesus in Bolivia has apologized to the victims and pledged to support the investigation while denouncing Pedrajas' superiors - many of whom are no longer in office or have passed away - for their alleged cover-up.


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