In Chile, Pope Francis Apologizes for ‘Irreparable Damage’ Caused by Sexual Abuse

New York Times

January 16, 2018

By Ernesto Londoño

Pope Francis said on Tuesday that he was “pained and ashamed” over the “irreparable damage” priests had inflicted on minors, as he offered Chileans an apology during his first visit to their country as pontiff.

“It is just to ask for forgiveness and to support victims with as much strength as possible, even as we take steps to ensure that this never happens again,” the pope said during an address in Santiago, Chile’s capital, attended by President Michelle Bachelet.

The remarks were the pope’s latest effort to contain the fallout from a series of sexual abuse scandals that have contributed to the decline of Catholicism in several regions, including Latin America.

But victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy in Chile said the pope’s words rang hollow.

“It’s not the time for apologies anymore, it’s the time for action,” said Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean who was abused by a priest when he was a 17-year-old seminarian. “Here in Chile there are bishops who have witnessed abuse and who have covered that up and who have abused as well and they are still in their position. The pope should remove them.”

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Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of, a group that tracks abuse cases in the church, said the pope’s remarks in Santiago were “strong but familiar.” Francis last year acknowledged that the church had been slow to respond to allegations of abuse and said that “pedophilia is a sickness.”

Ms. Doyle, whose group last week published a database of nearly 80 Chilean clergymen who have been accused of abuse, said she hoped the pope would commit to undertaking a sweeping investigation of past cases.

“If the pope leaves Chile without committing to investigate complicit church leaders, the public’s already deep distrust of the church will intensify,” Ms. Doyle said.

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