Pope Francis Praises Sicilian Bishop Accused of Covering-Up Sexual Abuse

The pope held a routine audience Saturday with a group from the Little House of Mercy Association, a charitable organization in Sicily. He began his brief remarks with a greeting.

“I greet Bishop Rosario Gisana of Piazza Armerina: he is good, this bishop, good. He was persecuted, slandered, yet he stood firm, always, just, a just man,” he said in welcoming the group.

Francis did not elaborate on what he meant by Gisana being persecuted and slandered. But the pope’s comments quickly sparked controversy, as Gisana is a contentious figure facing allegations of covering up sexual abuse.

The bishop has been accused of failing to respond to a report of sexual abuse by a catechist in his diocese. The alleged victim claims to have reported the abuse to Gisana immediately, a claim that the bishop denies.

In addition, the bishop has been accused of protecting a priest in the diocese, Giuseppe Rugolo, who is currently on trial for child pornography and sexual violence against minors.

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