Pope Francis admits 'grave error' in discrediting Chilean church sex abuse victims

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Then the Pope dispatched Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican's top sexual crimes investigator, to Chile and NY to interview victims.

Scicluna and his colleague, the Rev. Jordi Bertomeu, spent almost two weeks in Chile and NY earlier this year interviewing Karadima's victims, who for years have denounced Barros' silence and were stunned by Francis' strong defense of him during his January visit to Chile.

A 2,300-page report sent to the pope includes testimony gathered from 64 people in NY and Santiago.

In a letter to the bishops of Chile, Pope Francis has apologised for underestimating the seriousness of the sexual abuse crisis in the country following a recent investigation into allegations concerning Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno.

The Argentine pontiff said that he was convinced of Barros' innocence and demanded "proof" of abuse before he would speak out against him.

Scicluna and his colleague, the Rev. Jordi Bertomeu, spent almost two weeks in Chile and NY earlier this year interviewing Karadima's victims, who for years have denounced Barros' silence and were stunned by Francis' strong defense of him.

Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu, the Pope said, were overwhelmed by the "maturity, respect and kindness" of the victims who testified.

Francis wrote the letter after receiving Scicluna's 2,300-page report and in the missive to the bishops he summoned them to Rome for a meeting.

The unveiling of Francis's letter took place in Chile at a press conference, headed by Bishops Santiago Silva and Fernando Ramos, president and secretary general of the Chilean bishops' conference.

"The present difficulties are also an opportunity to restore confidence in the Church, a confidence broken by our mistakes and sins", Francis wrote.

But following an outcry in Chile during his January trip and suggestions that Francis didn't have all the information, Francis dispatched Scicluna to get the bottom of the scandal. There is not a single piece of evidence against him.

Yet in late January, the Vatican announced that Francis was sending Scicluna to investigate the claims of the accusers.

Karadima, an influential Chilean priest, was convicted by the Vatican in 2011 of abusing teenage boys and sentenced to a life of penitence.

Barros stands accused of helping to cover up decades of sexual abuse of children by a priest, Rev. Fernando Karadima.

After hugging Bishop Barros publicly during his visit, he called the accusations...

Pope Francis begged forgiveness from the victims he previously discredited in a letter published today. Several survivors apparently have been invited to the Vatican to meet the pope.

"Our actions have always been aimed at acknowledgment, forgiveness and reparation" by the Church for the suffering caused, they said, adding that they will continue to work until "zero tolerance" of abuse and cover-up within the Church becomes a reality".

"The damage done by the Chilean church's hierarchy, which the Pope refers to, has affected many people, not just us", the statement reads".

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