Pope 'making history' with Chile abuse summit, official says

Frederick Owens
May 18, 2018

All of Chile's Catholic bishops have offered their resignation to Pope Francis, following a three-day meeting in Rome to talk about the clerical sex abuse scandal.

The Chilean bishops said the contents of the document were "absolutely deplorable" and showed an "unacceptable abuse of power and conscience", as well as sexual abuse.

'We have delved into the seriousness [of the abuses] as well as the tragic consequences they have had, particularly for the victims, ' the pope said, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The unprecedented decision was made on the final day of their meeting, from 15th to 17th May with Pope Francis.

He thanked the bishops for their presence and for the "frank discernment" they carried out in terms of how to face the "serious acts that have damaged ecclesial communion and weakened the work of the Church in Chile in recent years".

Francis reiterated his heartfelt apology to the bishops and the victims, saying he is close to them and is united with them in "one single will and with the firm intention to fix the damages done".

Victims of Chile's most notorious predator priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, had placed Bishop Juan Barros at the scene of their abuse - a charge he has long denied.

Francis had sent Father Bertomeu and the Vatican's top expert to investigate, and they came back with a much broader view of the scale of abuse and cover-up in the church.

Francis accused the bishops of destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring investigators to minimize abuse accusations and showing "grave negligence" in protecting children from paedophile priests.

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He said the bishops had agreed to short, medium and long-term changes in order to restore justice and Church unity, but did not elaborate. He produced a 2,300-page report that was discussed at the Vatican meetings.

In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

The pope said he had asked for "forgiveness from the heart" from the abuse victims, adding that the Chilean bishops expressed their "firm intention to fix the damage caused".

On Thursday three other bishops offered their resignations ahead of Friday's statement from all the bishops.

Picture: Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo, Chile, and Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, Chile, arrive for a press conference in Rome on 18th May.

Speculations about resignations to come continue to hang over Chile's Catholic Church; its episcopal conference said earlier this month that it felt "pain and embarrassment" over the abuse scandal.

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

The report's co-author Jordi Bertomeu, who helped lead the investigation, has said the Holy See is "making history", adding that sexual abuse "cannot be tolerated".

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