April 28, 2018
Santiago (AFP) – Despite a strong Catholic tradition, Chile is witnessing a growing rift between the people and the church, sharpened by a string of sexual abuse scandals that until recently had been ignored by the pope.
The extent of the rift became clear in January when Pope Francis visited Chile and sparked outrage by hugging Juan Barros, a controversial bishop who has been accused of covering up abuses by another priest in the 1980s and ’90s.
Questioned by journalists, Francis responded abruptly, saying there was “not a single piece of proof” against Barros in remarks that caused widespread anger among those who had been abused by the other priest, Fernando Karadima.
But the pontiff apologized and quickly moved to dispatch the Vatican’s top abuse investigator to collect evidence, later acknowledging he had made “grave mistakes” in his handling of the scandal.
And he also pledged to meet with the victims, inviting three of them to the Vatican to discuss the extent of abuse within the church in Chile.
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