Associated Press via NBC
January 16, 2018
Pope Francis on Tuesday begged the forgiveness of Chileans for the “irreparable damage” done to children who were sexually abused by priests.
Francis opened his visit to Chile by referring directly to the abuse scandal in a speech to President Michelle Bachelet, lawmakers, justices and other Chilean authorities. The scandal has eroded the credibility of the Catholic Church in the country and cast a shadow over his visit, the first by a pope in three decades.
Francis said he felt “bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church.” He said he joined his fellow bishops in asking forgiveness, supporting victims and ensuring abuse doesn’t happen again.
Chile’s Catholic Church had already begun losing relevance when in 2010 it was found to have covered up for a prominent and powerful priest who sexually abused minors in his posh Santiago parish over decades. The Vatican eventually sanctioned the priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, in 2011, but the church has yet to recover from the scandal.
Many Chileans are still furious over Francis’ 2015 decision to appoint a bishop who had been the priest’s protege. Bishop Juan Barros of the southern city of Osorno has always denied he knew what Karadima was doing, but many Chileans have a hard time believing that.
“Sex abuse is Pope Francis’ weakest spot in terms of his credibility,” Massimo Faggioli, a Vatican expert and theology professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia, said ahead of the visit. “It is surprising that the pope and his entourage don’t understand that they need to be more forthcoming on this issue.”
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