Pope Francis admits 'serious mistakes' in Chile sex abuse cases

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Pope Francis has admitted he made "grave mistakes" in dealing with reports of sexual abuse by clergy members in Chile.

Pope Francis said he wanted to meet with the bishops to discern immediate and long-term steps to "re-establish ecclesial communion in Chile in order to fix the scandal as much as possible and re-establish justice".

Abuse victims alleged that Bishop Barros - then a priest - had witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima.

If Barros and two other Karadima-trained bishops were also to resign, Francis would have the chance to remake the Chilean Church hierarchy - a reform that victims have long called for.

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.

The pontiff said he felt shame for not believing victims and invited them to Rome so he could personally beg their forgiveness.

Scicluna's 2,300-page March 20 report includes testimony from abuse victims.

Karadima was a charismatic preacher who was removed from the ministry by the Vatican for sexually abusing minors and sentenced in 2011 to a lifetime of penance and prayer. A similar meeting took place in Rome with American bishops in 2002 during the papacy of Pope John Paul after a sexual abuse crisis exploded in the United States. "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.

A short time later, the Vatican announced Pope Francis was sending a trusted investigator to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop Barros.

Now, the pope is inviting them to Rome so he can apologize, acknowledging that he was the one who lacked evidence, or "truthful and balanced information". Not all of the witnesses spoke about Father Karadima and Bishop Barros; several of them gave testimony about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers' school.

Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu, the pope said, had been overwhelmed by the "maturity, respect and kindness" of the victims who testified. "So there will be changes to the church in Chile". The same victims who made those accusations were deemed credible by a Chilean judge who examined the sexual abuse by Karadima.

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

The pontiff made the admission in a letter to the bishops of Chile after reading report by two special envoys sent for the express objective of listening the stories of victims in the South American country.

In the letter, published by the Episcopal Conference, the Pope asked for forgiveness.

Before going to Santiago Feb. 19 to interview witnesses related to the Bishop Barros accusations, Archbishop Scicluna stopped in NY to interview Cruz. The archbishop also had 10 years of experience as the Vatican's chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases at the doctrinal congregation.

Francis said that he was convinced of Barros" innocence and demanded "proof' of abuse before he would speak out against him. "Let us love in the truth, let us ask for wisdom of heart and allow ourselves to be converted".