Pope Francis vows 'change' in Chile church after paedophile scandal

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Pope Francis vows 'change' in Chile church after paedophile scandal

The unprecedented summoning of the Chilean delegation is also a chance for Francis to fix some of the damage done during his visit to the country in January, when his defense of controversial bishop Juan Barros caused a public outcry.

In a devastating 10-page document delivered to Chilean bishops during a summit this week, Francis said the entire Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for "grave defects" in handling abuse cases and the resulting loss of credibility that the Catholic Church has suffered.

Francis summoned the Chilean bishops' conference to Rome for four days of meetings and prayer after admitting that he had made "grave errors in judgment" in the case of a Chilean bishop accused of witnessing and ignoring abuse. That letter undercut Francis' claim to have never heard from victims about Barros.

Francis had sent Father Bertomeu and the Vatican's top expert to investigate, and they came back with a much broader view of the scale of abuse and cover-up in the church.

The report's co-author Jordi Bertomeu, who helped lead the investigation, has said the Holy See is "making history", adding that sexual abuse "cannot be tolerated".

"I thank you for the full availability that everyone has shown to adhere to and collaborate in all the changes and resolutions that we will have to implement in the short, medium and long term, necessary to restore justice and ecclesiastical communion", the pope said in a statement in Spanish circulated by the Vatican.

In the past, Francis had defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him "calumny" during a trip to Chile in January.

Such behaviour has been the hallmark of the clerical sex abuse crisis worldwide, with bishops and religious superiors shuttling abusers around from parish to parish or dioceses rather than reporting them to police or launching canonical investigations and removing them from ministry.

"The actions decided by Pope Francis will be the only measure to consider in order to know if the time of cover-ups has ended within said institution", the victims wrote. He appointed Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, in 2015 over the objections of other Chilean bishops who said his past was problematic.

Pope Francis today called on the global community to "welcome" and "integrate" those forced to flee their homes and their countries. Blaming a "lack of truthful and balanced information" about the case for his missteps, Francis invited the three main whistle-blowers to the Vatican hotel he calls home so he could apologise in person.

At the start of the summit, representatives of the Chilean bishops' conference had said they were prepared to accept whatever measures Francis proposed, including bishop resignations, overhauls of Chile's seminaries and economic reparation for victims. The Irish church was subsequently subjected to a wide-ranging, yearlong Vatican investigation into their dioceses, seminaries and religious orders.

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