Pope Francis admits 'serious mistakes' in Chile sex abuse cases

Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis speaks during a public meeting of Charlottetown city council at the Rodd Charlottetown hotel Tuesday

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.

Pope Francis said he wanted to meet with the bishops to discern immediate and long-term steps to "re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile in order to fix the scandal as much as possible and re-establish justice".

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.

Pope Francis sent one of his top sexual abuse investigators, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, to Chile to interview victims after long dismissing their claims.

Pope Francis has backed him, and has refused to allow him to step down from his post, though the bishop has submitted a letter of resignation multiple times.

However, during the in-flight press conference on January 21-22 while returning from South America to Rome, the pope apologized to the victims for saying they offered no "proof" when he should have said "evidence".

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

Silva said the meeting of Chilean bishops with the pope in Rome would take place on the third week of May.

After a "careful reading" of the testimonies, the pope said, "I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a brutal way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and, I confess, it has caused me pain and shame".

The Catholic leader made the extraordinary admissions in a letter to Chilean bishops and summoned them to the Vatican for a crisis meeting. In his letter to the Chilean priests, the Pope said that "I have made serious mistakes in the judgement and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information".

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. "So there will be changes to the church in Chile".

The comment prompted uproar from the bishop's critics, several of whom are victims of Karadima's abuse.

In a letter Wednesday to followers, the pope asked for forgiveness and said he misjudged the severity of the cases. It also prompted Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, one of the Pope's nine cardinal advisers and head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, to release a statement saying the words were painful to victims. He then went to Santiago to interview additional witnesses related to the case.

Apologies have not been enough to calm the victims of the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal - at least not the kind of apologies the pope has been willing to offer.

In August 2017, the Marist Brothers reported that a member of the congregation had admitted to abusing 14 boys in Chile.

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.

The bishops, he said, shared in the pope's pain.

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