Pope says sorry over pedo priest

World | Agence France-Presse Apr 13, 2018
Pope Francis admitted yesterday he had made grave mistakes in his handling of a sexual abuse scandal in Chile as he looks to quell the latest controversy to rock the Roman Catholic Church.

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

Francis expressed his shame and pain for the suffering of the victims and pledged to meet them.

"I have made grave mistakes in the assessment and my perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information," Francis wrote.

He made no specific mention of Barros, who was appointed Bishop of Osorno in Chile, despite being accused of concealing and even witnessing abuse carried out by Karadima.

A 2,300-page report sent to the pope includes testimony gathered from 64 people in New York and Santiago.

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 present difficulties are also an opportunity to restore confidence in the Church, a confidence broken by our mistakes and sins," Francis wrote.

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.

Francis said that he was convinced of Barros' innocence and demanded "proof" of abuse before he would speak out against him. "There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander. Is this clear?" Francis said.

Since taking over in March 2013, Francis has championed the cause of the marginalized and launched a reform agenda.

But sex abuse scandals have haunted his papacy and the Vatican announced it was reviving its anti-pedophile panel in February. The pope has often spoken out about sexual abuse, and has vowed zero tolerance toward what he has described as a "great humiliation" for the Catholic Church.

But many victims remain bitter over alleged cover-ups and church inaction over the years.

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