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Priest in Chile investigated over illegal adoptions
20 August 2014 14:51 by Isabel de Bertodano

A Sacred Heart priest is under investigation after allegedly placing babies for illegal adoption in the 1970s and 1980s.

A judge in Chile has instructed Fr Gerardo Joannon to stay in the country until October, while the inquiry studies 14 suspected illegal adoptions. An earlier review by his diocese concluded that Fr Joannon, who is 77, was involved in two irregular adoptions and recommended that he join a community in Spain, as a disciplinary measure.

The judge, Mario Carroza, is reportedly planning to interview the superior provincial of the Sacred Heart Congregation, Alex Vigueras, who originally ordered that Joannon should acknowledge his guilt, ask for forgiveness and undergo a "process of psychological and spiritual recovery" in Madrid.  

A 93-year-old nun, Maria Graciela Soto, who is living in a nursing home, is also implicated in the case, which involved a wider network of doctors and other professionals. This network took babies from young, unmarried mothers, with the collusion of the grandparents, and put them up for adoption. The mothers were told the babies had been stillborn and Fr Joannon allegedly conducted their “funerals”.

The Archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, said this weekend that Fr Joannon needed help and rehabilitation “I hope that once this is all over that is what he will receive,” said the cardinal.