Vatican: Pope Chile letter a "spiritual state of emergency"

13 April, 2018, 01:40 | Author: Dustin Murphy
  • A man walks with his bicycle at a damaged site in the besieged town of Douma Eastern Ghouta in Damascus Syria

Pope Francis admits he made "grave mistakes" by disregarding accusers in a child sex abuse scandal that rocked the Chilean church.

In an extraordinary public letter, Francis also summoned all of Chile's bishops to the Vatican for an emergency meeting in the coming weeks to discuss repairing the damage from the scandal, which has badly tarnished his reputation and that of the Chilean church.

He blamed a lack of "truthful and balanced information" in his missteps in judging the case of Bishop Juan Barros, a protege of Chile's most notorious predator priest, the Reverend Fernando Karadima.

Francis strongly defended the bishop during his January visit to Chile despite accusations by victims that Barros had witnessed and ignored their abuse.

The letter signalled an about-face in the Pope's position on allegations that a bishop he appointed in 2015 covered up the country's worst paedophile priest.

Archbishop Scicluna and his aide, Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, heard the testimony of 64 people and presented the pope with more than 2,300 pages of documentation.

Karadima was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011, despite insisting his innocence, and banished to a life of penance and prayer.

The pope said he was convening a meeting in Rome with the 34 Chilean bishops to discuss the findings of the investigations and his own conclusions "without prejudices nor preconceived ideas, with the single objective of making the truth shine in our lives". "I confess this caused me pain and shame", the pope wrote in the letter, referring to the dossier, according to a translation provided by the Associated Press.

Other clerics more favorable to Barros had Francis' ear: the Vatican ambassador, who has always been hostile to Barros' accusers; the retired archbishop of Santiago, who has accused Cruz of being a liar and "serpent"; and an old Spanish Jesuit friend who evaluated Barros years ago.


In a letter to the bishops of Chile, the pope said he made "serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information".

But Francis had plenty of factual information at his disposal that he apparently did not take into account: The executive committee of Chile's bishops' conference had recommended Barros resign and take a sabbatical.

The president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, Bishop Santiago Silva, said that the church "had not done enough" in the case.

"He is sort of calling a spiritual state of emergency, which shows how seriously he takes the situation", Burke said.

Controversy over Barros, bishop of the city of Osorno in Chile's south, dominated a recent trip the Argentine pontiff made to South America.

Osorno parishioners said they appreciated the Pope's change of heart and accepted his plea for forgiveness. He then went to Santiago to interview additional witnesses related to the case.

In August 2017, the Marist Brothers reported that a member of the congregation had admitted to abusing 14 boys in Chile.

The bishops, he said, shared in the pope's pain.

"Now more than ever we can not fall back into the temptation of verbiage or stain in 'universals, ' he said, and told the bishops to look to Christ in the coming days and weeks".

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