Pope admits 'grave error,' apologizes for not believing Chile sex abuse victims

Pope admits 'grave error,' apologizes for not believing Chile sex abuse victims

Pope Francis has admitted he made "grave errors" in judgment in Chile's sex abuse scandal, and invited the abuse victims he had initially discredited to Rome to beg their forgiveness.

Scicluna was investigating claims surrounding Bishop Juan Barros, appointed by the pope in 2015 despite accusations that Barros had covered up sexual abuse of minors by his mentor Father Fernando Karadima.

Francis' decision to send Archbishop Scicluna to Santiago to investigate the accusations came after controversy flared during the pope's January 15-18 visit to Chile, during which he responded to a Chilean journalist who asked about the Bishop Barros issue, saying the accusations were "calumny", because there was no proof.

Francis said the meeting, which comes just a year after the Chilean bishops were last in Rome on a regular visit, would have as its objective "repairing scandal where possible and re-establishing justice".

Following the release of Pope Francis' letter, Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, president of the bishops' conference and head of the military ordinariate, said the bishops of Chile would travel to the Vatican in the third week of May.

The pope later dispatched Archbishop Scicluna to Chile and NY to interview victims. In 2011, Fr Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

The pope has not said whether he will ask Madrid to step down, but has asked the country's bishops to visit Rome for a meeting in the near future.

In this week's letter, the Pope wrote that after reading the lengthy report and the testimonies collected that 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 made grave mistakes of judgment and perception of the situation, especially due to the lack of truthful and balanced information, ' he wrote.

The error in judgement that the Pope has spoken about is in the context of him defending Bishop Juan Barros who is a protégé of the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu, the pope said, had been overwhelmed by the "maturity, respect and kindness" of the victims who testified. The same victims who made those accusations were deemed credible by a Chilean judge who examined the sexual abuse by Karadima.

In the letter, published by the Episcopal Conference, the Pope asked for forgiveness.

Archbishop Scicluna is a well-regarded Vatican expert on sex abuse appeals cases.

The pope has often spoken out about sexual abuse, and has vowed zero tolerance towards what he has described as a "great humiliation" for the Catholic Church.

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

"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. Let us love in the truth, let us ask for wisdom of heart and allow ourselves to be converted".

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