STORY: Catholic Church leaders in Bolivia say the institution has ignored the sexual abuse of children in Church-run schools.
That came after revelations surfaced of widespread sexual abuse by the late Alfonso Pedrajas, a Spanish priest who ran schools in Bolivia for marginalized communities.
The Secretary General of the country's Bishops' Conference, Monsignor Giovani Arana, acknowledged the Church's failures on Wednesday.
"The bishops of Bolivia want to address the victims, their families, and the ecclesial community. Instead of giving them the protection and care they deserved, we found a Church deaf to their suffering. Sexual abuse is the opposite of the very essence of the Church."
After Pedrajas' death in 2009, his nephew discovered a diary on the priest's laptop where he confessed to the abuse of at least 84 minors across several decades...
....the priest also alleged that Church officials knew but did nothing.
Since excerpts of the diary were published in April, protests have been staged outside Church offices, and some 200 people have come forward as survivors of abuse both at the hands of Pedrajas and in religious schools across the country.
"I was threatened because he (Father Alfonso Pedrajas) found out -I don't know how- that I was stirring up the companions to do something. He called me; he was a psychologist, wasn't stupid, and knew how to manipulate you. I felt threatened because he said 'If you continue with this plan, you'll have to deal with me, and you won't return to school next year'."
As of Tuesday, Bolivia's congress has received 19 allegations of child abuse against members of the Catholic Church.
According to Congresswoman Pamela Terrazas, ten complaints have already been filed with the Public Prosecutor's Office and are awaiting investigation.
Bishop Arana said the Church would cooperate fully with the state's investigation, in addition to setting up two commissions to support survivors and investigate the abuse internally.
In an attempt to redeem the Church's damaged reputation from abuse scandals across the globe, Pope Francis has passed a series of measures over the past decade to hold Church officials more accountable, with mixed results.