The sun sets behind the statues on top of the Bernini colonnade in St. Peter Square, at the Vatican, Monday, March 4, 2013. Cardinals from around the world have gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid scandals inside and out of the Vatican and the continued reverberations of Benedict XVI's decision to retire. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Advocates for victims of clerical sex abuse in Chile, Mexico and Italy asked Tuesday for three cardinals to withdraw from the papal conclave, accusing them of covering up crimes.
The victims in Chile say Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz failed to act on accusations that they were abused by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who was long one of the country's most popular priests. They say the cardinal, who will vote for the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, declined to carry out a probe and refused to even meet them.
"My clients say it's incongruent and disrespectful to all the victims, not only Karadima's but those of other priests who abused minors when he was an archbishop," Juan Pablo Hermosilla, the victims' lawyer told The Associated Press.
"It's evident that he had knowledge of the complaints of abuse, which other priests believed to be true, and he did nothing," Hermosilla said. "He could have stopped this at the time, but for some reason he didn't. He looked the other way."
In Mexico, meanwhile, advocates for victims of the disgraced Rev. Marcial Maciel and other priests said they were presenting a petition demanding that Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera stay away from the conclave.
"Norberto, covering up and not acting to prevent sexual abuses of children by pedophile priests strips you of the moral stature required to participate in the election of the new leader of the Catholic Church," they said in a petition posted online by former priest Alberto Athie, co-author of a book denouncing pedophile clerics including Maciel, founder of the Legionnaries of Christ.
In Italy, victims of an abusive priest have launched a petition on www.change.org trying to keep Cardinal Domenico Calcagno out of the conclave.
Three men who said they were abused by the Rev. Nello Giraudo, a Savona-area priest, went on national television this week to accuse Calcagno of having known about the accusations and yet didn't report him to police.
Giraudo last year received a year's suspended sentence by an Italian court in a plea bargain after being accused of abusing dozens of minors. Calcagno and other bishops involved in his repeated transfers from parish to parish refused to comment.
One of the allegations against Rivera is linked to similar complaints about California Cardinal Roger Mahony, who also has faced, and rejected, calls to avoid the conclave.