Pope acknowledges his 'grave mistakes' in Chile sex abuse crisis

Casey Dawson
April 13, 2018

In a tweet after an April 11 news conference on the letter in Chile, Jaime Coiro, spokesman for the Chilean bishops conference, said that in the coming weeks Pope Francis will also meet with some victims of abuse carried out by Chilean clergy, asking each one personally for forgiveness.

Pope Francis had initially defended a bishop who was accused of covering up the sexual abuse that had taken place in Chile and come under heavy criticism for it.

Then soon after his visit, Pope Francis, in a stunning about-face, chose to send to Chile Archbishop Scicluna - the Catholic Church's top expert on investigating sex abuse - to review "recently received information concerning the case" of Bishop Barros.

But the Chilean bishops insisted they had been truthful to Francis about the need to get rid of Barros - they had proposed he resign and take a year sabbatical - and victims' advocates said Francis had only himself to blame, since the accusations against Barros were well known and well-founded.

Pope Francis has backed him, and has refused to allow him to step down from his post, though the bishop has submitted a letter of resignation multiple times.

The pontiff had said there was no evidence against Madrid.

Francis wrote the letter after receiving Scicluna's 2,300-page report and in the missive to the bishops, he summoned them to Rome for a meeting.

Karadima was a charismatic preacher who was removed from ministry by the Vatican for sexually abusing minors and sentenced in 2011 to a lifetime of penance and prayer. "He is saying "I made a mistake", he's saying 'I want to personally ask forgiveness of those I have offended and I am going to call all the bishops of Chile here to discuss what has to change.' He is saying that there will be changes".

In this week's letter, the Pope wrote that after reading the lengthy report and the testimonies collected that he felt "pain and shame".

In Chile and on his return trip to Rome, Francis accused the victims of "calumny," or making false statements in order to hurt someone's image.

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In letter to the Chilean hierarchy he blamed his errors on a lack of "truthful and balanced information". The Pope had appointed Barros to the post in 2015 despite the allegations against the bishop.

Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu, the pope said, had been overwhelmed by the "maturity, respect and kindness" of the victims who testified.

The comment prompted uproar from the bishop's critics, several of whom are victims of Karadima's abuse.

"He is sort of calling a spiritual state of emergency, which shows how seriously he takes the situation", Burke said.

Before going to Santiago Feb. 19 to interview witnesses related to the Bishop Barros accusations, Archbishop Scicluna stopped in NY to interview Cruz.

The pope has often spoken out about sexual abuse, and has vowed zero tolerance towards what he has described as a "great humiliation" for the Catholic Church.

In August 2017, the Marist Brothers reported that a member of the congregation had admitted to abusing 14 boys in Chile.

However, he later apologised to the victims and dispatched Scicluna, a renowned Vatican investigator, to Chile to collect evidence.

Francis said that he was convinced of Barros" innocence and demanded "proof' of abuse before he would speak out against him.

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