Published: Fri, May 18, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Pope vows 'change' in Chile church after pedophile scandal

Pope vows 'change' in Chile church after pedophile scandal

Pope Francis has wrapped up his emergency summit with Chile's bishops by thanking them for their "full willingness" to do whatever it takes to recover from a cleric sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

Pope Francis thanked Chile's bishops for their "frank" dialogue during a 3-day Vatican meeting on the Chilean abuse scandals, and asked them to focus on serving abuse victims as they return to their dioceses and prepare to implement short and long term resolutions.

Francis bid farewell to each of the 34 bishops from Chile amid indications that many heads are going to roll after four days of meetings and prayer.

"In the light of these painful events regarding abuses - of minors, of power and of conscience - we have realized the gravity of situation, as well as the tragic consequences that particularly victims have suffered", Pope Francis wrote, noting that seven additional bishops are likely to be removed as a means to re-establish confidence in the church.

The bishops are due to hold a news conference in Rome later on Friday.

The unprecedented summoning of the Chilean delegation is also a chance for Francis to fix some of the damage done during his visit to the country in January, when his defense of controversial bishop Juan Barros caused a public outcry.

Bishops Juan Barros, Tomislov Koljatic, Horacio Valenzuela and Monsignor Andres Arteaga renounced their episcopal duties under pressure over their roles in covering up Father Fernando Karadima's paedophilia, Clarin reports. That letter undercut Francis' claim to have never heard from victims about Barros.

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"I offer you a warm welcome and I thank you for the precious gift of your Sacred Book translated into today's language by the monks of Wat Pho Temple", Pope Francis told the group.

Such behaviour has been the hallmark of the clerical sex abuse crisis worldwide, with bishops and religious superiors shuttling abusers around from parish to parish or dioceses rather than reporting them to police or launching canonical investigations and removing them from ministry.

Francis at the time said he was convinced of Barros' innocence and demanded "proof" before he would speak out against him. He appointed Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, in 2015 over the objections of other Chilean bishops who said his past was problematic.

Pope Francis has urged new Ambassadors to the Holy See to work for peace and reconciliation and to use their diplomatic clout to favour better laws to protect and integrate migrants and refugees.

After receiving Bertomeu's report, Francis did an about-face, blaming a "lack of truthful and balanced information" about the case for his missteps.

According to Santiago Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez, the resignations of at least 10 Chilean bishops are still pending.

Such measures were also on the table when American cardinals in 2002 and the 24-member Irish bishops' conference in 2010 were hauled before the pope for a dressing down for their dismal handling of abuse cases. The Irish church was subsequently subjected to a wide-ranging, yearlong Vatican investigation into their dioceses, seminaries and religious orders.

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