THE Pope is sending the Vatican’s top sex crimes expert to Chile to investigate a bishop accused by victims of covering up for the country’s most notorious paedophile priest.

Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna will travel to Chile “to listen to those who have expressed the desire to provide elements” about the case of Bishop Juan Barros.

The Barros controversy dominated Francis’s recent trip to Chile. Even one of his closest advisers, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, publicly rebuked the Pope for his treatment of victims.

Bishop Barros was a protege of the Rev Fernando Karadima, a charismatic and politically powerful priest who was sanctioned by the Vatican for sexually abusing minors in 2011. Karadima’s victims testified to Chilean prosecutors that Bishop Barros and other priests in the El Bosque community saw Karadima kissing youngsters and were aware of his perversions, but did nothing about them.

Francis put a stop to a plan to have Barros and two other Karadima-trained bishops resign and take a year-long sabbatical, arguing that there was no proof against them. He overruled the local bishops’ objections and in January 2015 appointed Bishop Barros to head the diocese of Osorno.

Bishop Scicluna was instrumental in finally bringing to justice Latin America’s most notorious paedophile, the Rev Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ.