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Pope admits 'mistakes' in Chile sex abuse scandal

April 12, 2018

Pope Francis says he mishandled a sex abuse scandal in Chile and summoned the country's bishops. To ask their forgiveness, he also invited victims whom he had once discredited to visit Rome.

Pope Francis
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Medichini

Pope admits he made 'grave errors' in child abuse scandal

Pope Francis expressed "shame" for his handling of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Chile and asked for forgiveness from victims whom he'd previously dismissed, according to a letter released by the Vatican on Wednesday.

Francis is attempting to quell outcry following his defense of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of witnessing and covering up sexual abuse by a pedophile priest.

Read moreVatican revives sexual abuse panel

Did Pope Francis help cover up a sex scandal?

What did Francis say in the letter?

  • "I have fallen in grave errors of judgment and perception of the situation, especially due to the lack of truthful and balanced information," Francis wrote.
  • Francis summoned 32 Chilean bishops for a meeting in Rome to discuss the results of an investigation into the sex abuse scandal.
  • "From now on I ask forgiveness of all those I offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks," he wrote, inviting victims to come to Rome to meet with him.
  • He did not specifically mention Barros in the letter, but said that much needs to be done to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Chile and restore confidence.

Read morePope knew about sex abuse cover-up, says Chilean victim

How did Chileans respond? Parishioners and priests in the southern Chilean city of Osorno, where Barros was appointed as a bishop, said in a statement that they accepted Francis' plea for forgiveness. However, they said Barros would need to resign in order for them to regain trust in the church.

Read morePedophile priest convicted by German court of 108 cases of child abuse

Chile's church abuse scandal: Barros is accused of covering up and even witnessing abuse carried out by priest Fernando Karadima in the 1980s and 1990s. Karadima was convicted by the Vatican in 2011 of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer. Civil charges were dismissed for a stated lack of evidence.

Pope in hot water: Francis  sparked public outcry when he strongly defended Barros during a trip to Chile in January. He demanded "proof" of claims from victims and asserted that the bishop was innocent. He later apologized and dispatched a renowned Vatican investigator to Chile to collect evidence.

Emergency meeting with bishops: Such emergency meetings with bishops at the Vatican are rare. US bishops were summoned in 2002 after the sex abuse scandal erupted in the United States. Irish bishops were also rebuked in a meeting in 2013 for their mishandling of abuse cases.

Rome summit: The Chilean bishops are scheduled to meet with Francis in May to discuss a 2,300-page report on the scandal that included testimony from 64 people.

rs/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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