FILE - The Catholic Church officiates a reconciliation mass which seeks to bring together all sectors of the community that had become divided at the San Mateo cathedral of Osorno, Chile, June 17, 2018.
FILE - The Catholic Church officiates a reconciliation mass which seeks to bring together all sectors of the community that had become divided at the San Mateo cathedral of Osorno, Chile, June 17, 2018.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera will meet Pope Francis in Rome later this month during a tour of Europe, as the Roman Catholic Church in Chile faces a crisis over claims of sexual abuse and cover-ups.

A spokesman for Pinera said he will meet the pontiff at the Vatican during a tour of France, Spain, Germany and Belgium that begins Friday. A Vatican spokesman confirmed the meeting would take place Saturday morning.

The spokesman for Pinera declined to discuss who had requested the meeting or what would be discussed but said the president would visit Italy only for the purpose of seeing the pope.

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera attends a news
FILE - Chile's President Sebastian Pinera attends a news conference at the Presidential house in San Jose, Costa Rica, July 9, 2018.

Pinera, a Catholic who presides over a right-wing party with traditionally close ties to the Church, has remained largely silent on Chile's abuse crisis.  His uncle is Bernardino Pinera, 102, a retired cleric who is the oldest living Catholic bishop.

So far, the pope has accepted the resignations of seven of Chile's 34 bishops and Chilean civil justice has investigated 119 allegations of sexual abuse or cover-ups involving 167 church workers including Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago.

Last month, Pinera told a church service to celebrate independence day that he hoped the local Catholic Church would face the "dark times" and learn from them. "The church knows more than anyone that it was wrong," he said.

Ezzati is due to be questioned on Wednesday by a civilian prosecutor over allegations he covered up child abuse. The cardinal has maintained his innocence.