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Pope Francis admits 'grave mistakes' in Chile sex abuse scandal

Pope Francis admits 'grave mistakes' in Chile sex abuse scandal

Pope 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.

In a letter to 32 Chilean bishops released by the Vatican, Francis said he meant to summon them to Rome to discuss an investigation into an alleged cover-up by Bishop Juan Barros of abuse by paedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.

Earlier, despite claims against Bishop Barros, Pope Francis named him to head the Diocese of Osorno in 2015, saying he was "personally convinced" of the bishop's innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging at the time.

"The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, that's the day when I'll talk", Francis said.

Archbishop Scicluna and his aide, Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, heard the testimony of 64 people and presented the pope with more than 2,300 pages of documentation.

Karadima, who has been exposed as a sexual predator and was laicized in 2010 when 80, was ordered by the Vatican to "retire to a life of prayer and penitence". The Pope had visited Peru and Chile in the month of January after there were accusations on him of failing to handle allegations of clerical sex abuse which took place in both the countries.

"I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a stark manner, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and I confess that this has caused me pain and shame", Pope Francis said after a "slow reading" of the report.

In Chile and on his return trip to Rome, Francis accused the victims of "calumny," or making false statements in order to hurt someone's image. He said his perception was "due to a lack of truthful and balanced information". The Pope had appointed Barros to the post in 2015 despite the allegations against the bishop.

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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".

It's unclear what changes Francis has in mind for the Chilean Church.

Controversy over Barros, bishop of the city of Osorno in Chile's south, dominated a recent trip the Argentine pontiff made to South America.

Before going to Santiago Feb. 19 to interview witnesses related to the Bishop Barros accusations, Archbishop Scicluna stopped in NY to interview Cruz.

Critics accused the Pope of not understanding the depth of the crisis after he initially defended Barros and said he was the victim of slander. Several of them testified about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers' school, according to Catholic News Service.

Let's just say it is very clear now the Pope has a complete picture of the situation and I think certainly, yes, obviously other things, diverse things did come in in the past, but that happens all the times, with all sorts of people.

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

"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".


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