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Pope Francis Admits 'Grave Mistake' Over Chile's Sex Abuse Problems

13 April 2018, 01:38 | Marta Robbins

In extraordinary move, Pope Francis admits he made 'grave errors' in Chile sex abuse case

Pope Francis will apologise to abuse victims in Chile

In a letter published on Wednesday, Pope Francis summoned Chile's bishops to the Vatican for an emergency summit in the coming weeks, to discuss the scandal which has badly tarnished his reputation and that of the Chilean church.

He blamed a lack of "truthful and balanced information" in his missteps in judging the case of Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of Chile's most notorious predator priest, the Reverend Fernando Karadima.

Then soon after his visit, Pope Francis, in a stunning about-face, made a decision 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.

After hugging Bishop Barros publicly during his visit, he called the accusations...

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.

Protesters and victims said Bishop Barros is guilty of protecting Father Karadima and was physically present while some of the abuse was going on.

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. In 2011, Fr Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

After a "careful reading" of the testimonies, the pope said, "I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a brutal way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and, I confess, it has caused me 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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But Francis had plenty of factual information at his disposal that he apparently did not take into account: The executive committee of Chile's bishops' conference had recommended Barros resign and take a sabbatical.

While church leaders have long blasted the media for exposing paedophiles in their ranks, Francis thanked news organisations for respecting the confidentiality of those victims who came forward to testify, while "respecting the right of citizens to information". The same victims who made those accusations were deemed credible by a Chilean judge who examined the sexual abuse by Karadima.

Controversy over Barros, bishop of the city of Osorno in Chile's south, dominated a recent trip the Argentine pontiff made to South America.

During his visit to Chile in January, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the sexual abuses committed by some priests in Chile.

Archbishop Scicluna is a well-regarded Vatican expert on sex abuse appeals cases.

Critics accused the Pope of not understanding the depth of the crisis after he initially defended Barros and said he was the victim of slander. The archbishop also had 10 years of experience as the Vatican's chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases at the doctrinal congregation.

However, speaking to reporters, he pledged his support for Bishop Barros and said: "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak".

"Let us look at his life and gestures, especially when he shows compassion and mercy to those who have erred".



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