Pope admits ‘serious errors’ in situation of Chilean bishop accused of cover up
The Pope Francisco admits
Pope Francis acknowledged that he has made “serious errors of assessment and perception” in the case of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who has been accused of covering up for a pedophile priest and whom the pontiff has repeatedly defended.
“I recognize and I want you to communicate this accurately, that I have made serious errors of judgement and perception of the situation, especially due to lack of truthful and balanced information,” Francis wrote in a letter to the Chilean bishops.
In the following weeks, Francis will meet in Rome with some victims of clerical sexual abuse from Chile and individually ask them for their forgiveness, according to the spokesman for the Chilean bishops’ conference.
Ahead of those meetings, announced by spokesman Jaime Coiro via Twitter as the letter was being read out in Chile, Francis said that “from this moment, I apologize to all those whom I offended and I hope to be able to do it personally, in the coming weeks, in the meetings that I will have with representatives of the people interviewed.”
In addition, the 32 Chilean bishops who make up the conference will be travelling to Rome in the third week of May, summoned by Francis in the letter. During this meeting, the pontiff will share with them the conclusions he has reached after reading a report presented to him by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta. “I plan to call you to Rome to discuss the conclusions of the aforementioned visit and my conclusions,” Francis said, announcing what will be the biggest gathering of bishops to discuss clerical sex abuse in response to a papal summons.
In April 2002, 12 U.S. cardinals and the president and vice-president of the bishops’ conference met in Rome to lay the groundwork for the assembly of the U.S. bishops that took place later that year in Dallas, during which the policies on how to deal with child sexual abuse allegations against priests were drafted. Pope John Paul II was present at that Rome meeting.
The meeting, Francis wrote, will be a “fraternal moment, without prejudice or preconceived ideas, with the sole objective of making the truth shine in our lives.”
Francis sent Scicluna, the Vatican’s former top prosecutor for sex abuse crimes in the Church under Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, to listen to those who have “manifested their will to make known elements they possess” against Barros, appointed by the Argentine pontiff in 2015 to the Diocese of Osorno. Scicluna’s most celebrated prosecution involved the late Mexican Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, who was found guilty in 2006 and sentenced to a life of “prayer and penance.”
Scicluna and his colleague, Father Jordi Bertomeu, spent nearly two weeks in Chile and New York earlier this year interviewing Father Fernando Karadima’s victims, who for years have denounced Barros’ denials that he witnessed Karadima’s abuse. The two presented their findings to the pope in a 2,300 page report on March 20.
The letter, read on Wednesday, was signed by the pope on April 8, the second Sunday of Easter, and a day in which the Catholic Church marks the feast of the Divine Mercy.