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

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

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

Vatican CityPope Francis admitted Wednesday he made "grave errors" in judgment in Chile's sex abuse scandal and invited the victims he had discredited to Rome to beg their forgiveness.

Pope Francis' letter did not give any clue on Barros' future in the church, and it would likely be discussed at the meeting of Chilean bishops in Rome.

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.

Francis' decision to send Archbishop Scicluna to Santiago to investigate the accusations came after controversy flared during the pope's January 15-18 visit to Chile, during which he responded to a Chilean journalist who asked about the Bishop Barros issue, saying the accusations were "calumny", because there was no proof.

Speaking about the report regarding the case submitted to him by Charles Scicluna, the Archbishop of Malta and to Rev. Jordi Bertomeu Farnós, who listened to 64 testimonies, the Pope expressed his gratitude to them and said that, "I sent them to listen from the heart and with humility".

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. A similar meeting took place in Rome with American bishops in 2002 during the papacy of Pope John Paul after a sexual abuse crisis exploded in the United States. After reading the 2,300-page dossier his envoys prepared, Francis affirmed the victims "spoke in a stark way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives".

Other clerics more favorable to Barros had Francis' ear: the Vatican ambassador, who has always been hostile to Barros' accusers; the retired archbishop of Santiago, who has accused Cruz of being a liar and "serpent"; and an old Spanish Jesuit friend who evaluated Barros years ago. "I have made grave mistakes in the assessment and my perception of the situation, due in particular to a lack of truthful and balanced information", he wrote in a letter to Chilean bishops.

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Francis overrode their concerns and appointed Barros bishop of the southern Chilean diocese of Osorno in 2015, saying the church had investigated the claims against him and found them to be baseless. The coming weeks, he said, will be "an intense renewal of our vocation and mission" for the Church in Chile.

"It is also very interesting how seriously the Pope takes this".

The pope's letter did not reveal Mgr Scicluna's conclusions, but he said he wanted to discuss the findings with the bishops and asked for their cooperation in order re-establish serenity in Chile's Church and "repair the scandal as much as possible and re-establish justice". He then went to Santiago to interview additional witnesses related to the case. Victims had accused Barros of witnessing and ignoring their sexual abuse. Several of them testified about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers' school, according to Catholic News Service.

One of the Vatican's most experienced sexual abuse investigators went to Chile to find out more.

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

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

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