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Vatican sends priest’s diary to Bolivia amid sex abuse scandal

The late priest Alfonso Pedrazas is accused of sexually abusing children while working at a boarding school in Bolivia.

A sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has engulfed Bolivia, prompting the Vatican to send a key piece of evidence to the South American country.

On Thursday, the Society of Jesus of Bolivia admitted it had received a copy of the diary of the late Alfonso Pedrazas, the Jesuit priest accused of abusing dozens of minors. The diary was then handed over to prosecutors in the city of Cochabamba.

The contents of the diary were first brought to light in the Spanish newspaper El Pais in April as part of an ongoing investigation into the Spanish Catholic Church.

Pedrazas, originally from the Spanish city of Valencia, detailed child sexual abuse in Bolivia, dating back to the 1970s. He died of cancer in 2009.

According to El Pais, the priest’s nephew Fernando Pedrazas discovered a print-out of the diary in an attic and eventually returned it to the newspaper.

In its pages, the priest Pedrazas wrote the line: “I hurt many people (85?). A lot more.”

The newspaper published excerpts from the diary, prompting an outcry in Bolivia and an official response from the Vatican. Pope Francis has pledged to ensure the “full cooperation of the Church in working with the government” as it investigates the allegations.

He lamented the ongoing revelations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, calling them “tragic”.

Bolivian President Luis Arce, for his part, called on his country to “strengthen controls to prevent foreign priests with a history of sex crimes from entering the country.”

The Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the abuse claims Priest Jordi Bartomeu, a sex-crimes investigator from the Vatican, also came to Bolivia in May to gather information about prevention efforts within the church to end sexual abuse. He previously conducted investigations against church officials in Chile and Paraguay.

Pedrazas, known as Father Pica, was initially placed in Cochabamba at a Jesuit boarding school for poor youth in the 1970s.

At one point, according to his diary, Pedrazas told a Jesuit colleague about the abuse, only to be advised not to mention it in future confessions.

Pedrazas’ investigation joins at least 12 ongoing judicial investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Bolivia. Bolivia’s Episcopal Conference said a priest had already received a 10-year sentence for rape.

Another priest, Milton Murillo, was held in pre-trial detention for three months in May. New evidence against Murillo emerged in the wake of the Pedrazas scandal, as prosecutors urged survivors to come forward.

Since April, more than 200 people in the country have revealed that they too were abused at religiously run schools.

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