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Pope admits errors over Chile sex abuse
13 April 2018, 01:39 | Damon Campbell
Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis speaks during a public meeting of Charlottetown city council in this Guardian file
In a letter to the bishops of Chile, Pope Francis apologized for underestimating the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis in that country following a recent investigation into allegations concerning Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.
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.
The Pope promoted Father Barros to bishop in 2015 and described his accusers as "lefties", prompting protests and even the firebombing of churches during his visit to Chile in January.
While his letter didn't reveal his ultimate conclusions about Barros, Francis made clear that he and the bishops have a lot of work to do to turn the Chilean church around.
Francis also invited abuse victims he had once doubted to come to Rome to seek their forgiveness personally.
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". 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 is saying "I made a mistake", he's saying 'I want to personally ask forgiveness of those I have offended and I am going to call all the bishops of Chile here to discuss what has to change.' He is saying that there will be changes". "I confess this caused me pain and shame", the pope wrote in the letter, referring to the dossier, according to a translation provided by the Associated Press.
In a letter to the bishops of Chile, the pope said he made "serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information".
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".
The president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, Bishop Santiago Silva, said that the church "had not done enough" in the case.
The comment prompted uproar from the bishop's critics, several of whom are victims of Karadima's abuse.
The pontiff made the admission in a letter to the bishops of Chile after reading report by two special envoys sent for the express objective of listening the stories of victims in the South American country.
Members of the commission confirmed the news, and said the commission's head, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, had indeed handed the letter to Pope Francis, raising the question of whether the Pope actually read the letter. He then went to Santiago to interview additional witnesses related to the case. In addition to heading the Archdiocese of Malta, in 2015 he was named by the Pope to oversee a team in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith charged with handling appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse.
One of the Vatican's most experienced sexual abuse investigators went to Chile to find out more.
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".
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