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Pope expresses 'shame' to Chileans over sexual abuse

May 31, 2018

Pope Francis has vowed that the crimes of the priest Fernando Karadima will never be repeated. He is set to meet with another group of victims later this week.

Pope Francis
Image: Getty Images/AFP/V. Pinto

Pope Francis issued an apology and a promise to never repeat the mistakes of the past in a letter to Chilean victims of sexual abuse that was released on Thursday. The pope voiced his deep "shame" for the Catholic Church's failure "to listen and react in time" to reports that members of the clergy in Chile were abusing children. He vowed that nothing of the sort would happen ever again.

Several high-ranking church members in Chile have been accused of covering up the crimes of priest Fernando Karadima, who has been found guilty by the Vatican of assaulting a number of minors in the 1980s and '90s. At the time, Karadima was an influential priest with connections to Chile's wealthy elite, including to the government of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The pope also praised in his letter Karadima's victims, applauding them for persevering in bringing the story to light despite repeated attempts to discredit them.

In an earlier statement to Chilean bishops, Francis blamed clergy for "the painful and shameful fact of the sexual abuse of minors, of the abuses of power, and of the abuses of conscience on the part of ministers of the church."

Although the accounts of abuse by Karadima first became public in 2010, the case has found renewed interest in 2018 as the pope grapples with the church's crimes. Francis recently met with three victims personally, and will meet with seven more on Friday and Sunday.

The pope reversed his position after coming under fire in January for supporting Bishop Juan Barros, who took part in the cover-up. He accused the victims of slandering Barros, saying there was no proof that he had participated in wrongdoing. Activists subsequently came forward, saying they had provided such information to Francis' subordinates years earlier.

Chile has a long history of not being subjected to civilian law, which may have played a role in the ease of the cover-up.

es/msh (AFP, Reuters)