Pope Francis admits mistakes in Chile

In a letter addressed to Chile's bishops, Pope Francis admitted to making "serious mistakes" in handling the nation's massive sex abuse crisis and asked for forgiveness.

Picture: In a letter to Chilean bishops, Pope Francis says he hopes to meet with Chilean sex abuse victims.

The Pope's letter comes after Archbishop Scicluna made a February 19-25 visit to the United States and Chile to investigate accusations of negligence on the part of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who has been accused of covering up abuse of his longtime friend Fernando Karadima.

During a trip to Chile in January, the pontiff had strongly defended Barros, who appeared at public masses celebrated by the Pope in three different Chilean cities, causing a public outcry.

The pope later dispatched Archbishop Scicluna to Chile and NY to interview victims.

Karadima, an influential Chilean priest, was convicted by the Vatican in 2011 of abusing teenage boys and sentenced to a life of penitence.

In the letter, the Pope wrote that after reading the lengthy report and the testimonies collected by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Rev. Jordi Bertomeu Farnós, he felt "pain and shame".

Other clerics more favorable to Barros had Francis' ear: the Vatican ambassador, who has always been hostile to Barros' accusers; the retired archbishop of Santiago, who has accused Cruz of being a liar and "serpent"; and an old Spanish Jesuit friend who evaluated Barros years ago.

"I have made grave mistakes in the assessment and my perception of the situation, due to a lack of truthful and balanced information", he wrote in an extraordinary letter to Chilean bishops.

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.

Days later, the pope did a turnaround and sent Scicluna to investigate.

The president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, Bishop Santiago Silva, said that the church "had not done enough" in the case. The same victims who made those accusations were deemed credible by a Chilean judge who examined the sexual abuse by Karadima. 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.

The Pope in his letter has said that, "Today I want to speak to you not of assurances, but...the joy, the peace of forgiveness of our sins and the action of his grace".

Before going to Santiago Feb. 19 to interview witnesses related to the Bishop Barros accusations, Archbishop Scicluna stopped in NY to interview Cruz. Several of them testified about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers' school, according to Catholic News Service.

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". The archbishop also had 10 years of experience as the Vatican's chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases at the doctrinal congregation.

"Let us look at his life and gestures, especially when he shows compassion and mercy to those who have erred".

  • Tracy Klein