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Pope Francis admits 'grave errors' in Chile sex abuse scandal
13 April 2018, 01:43 | Myrtle Vega
Pope Francis will apologise to abuse victims in Chile
Pope Francis has admitted he made "grave errors" in judgment in Chile's sex abuse scandal, and invited the abuse victims he had initially discredited to Rome to beg their forgiveness.
"For my part, I recognise - and so I want it to be faithfully transmitted - that I have incurred grave mistakes of judgment and perception of the situation, especially due to the lack of truthful and balanced information", Francis wrote.
"I apologize to all those I have offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks, in the meetings I will have" with victims, he said in a letter to Chilean bishops.
The Pope's about-turn has been welcomed by the Irish child abuse survivor, Marie Collins, who resigned a year ago from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors alleging that the Vatican bureaucracy was obstructing its work.
Francis caused an outcry during his visit to Chile in January when he defended Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused of protecting predator priest Fernando Karadima despite having witnessed the abuse, saying there was no proof. 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. He was not prosecuted civilly because the statute of limitations had been exceeded.
"The Pope in the letter is basically making a big act of humility", said Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke.
"I confess this caused me pain and shame", he wrote.
"I can't condemn him because I don't have evidence".
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However, he later apologised to the victims and dispatched Scicluna, a renowned Vatican investigator, to Chile to collect evidence.
He said he felt shame reading Archbishop Scicluna's 2,300-page report and thanked the 64 people who testified for their courage in bearing the "wounds of their souls". Not all of the witnesses spoke about Father Karadima and Bishop Barros; several of them gave testimony about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers' school.
The pope has not said whether he will ask Madrid to step down, but has asked the country's bishops to visit Rome for a meeting in the near future.
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.
The pope asked the bishops to Rome to discuss the findings of the probe by Archbishop Charles Scicluna and requested their "collaboration and assistance" in finding measures that can "repair the scandal as much as possible and restore justice".
"They told the truth but the Pope accused them of "calumny" based on the word of his clerical colleagues".
Following the release of Pope Francis' letter, Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, president of the bishops' conference and head of the military ordinariate, said the bishops of Chile would travel to the Vatican in the third week of May.
"Now more than ever we can not fall back into the temptation of verbiage or stain in 'universals, ' he said, and told the bishops to look to Christ in the coming days and weeks". "We have not done enough", he said in a statement.
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