Pope Francis expressed “pain and shame” over the rape and molestation of children by priests in Chile, after he met victims of sexual abuse during his visit to the country this week, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The Pope publicly sought forgiveness and said, “I cannot begin to express the pain and shame I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children by some ministers of the church.” He promised to ensure that such abuse would never happen again, AFP reported.
The pontiff’s arrival, however, was marked by protests and attacks on Catholic churches, as anger over the abuses has been simmering in Chile.
At least 80 Chilean priests and religious brothers have been accused of molesting children and were named in a database published by Boston-based research group bishopaccountability.org on January 10, just before the pope’s trip.
Chilean parishioners have been criticising the Pope – the first Latin American leader of the Catholic Church – for appointing Juan Barros as bishop of the city of Osorno in 2015. Barros has been accused of covering up the sexual abuse of dozens of minors by Priest Fernando Miguel Karadima, Al Jazeera reported. The Vatican found Karadima guilty in 2011.
Hours after the Pope arrived in Chile on Monday, two small wooden churches were burned to the ground near Temuco, which was on his itinerary, according to Reuters.
At his first stop in Santiago, he faced protests over the way the church handled clergy sexual abuse, AFP reported. Police in riot gear dispersed 200 demonstrators near a park where the pope held a mass for some four lakh people.