Pope Francis on Wednesday apologised for “grave mistakes” he said he had made in the handling cases of child sex abuse in Chile, Reuters reported. The Roman Catholic leader invited victims he had once doubted to Rome so that he could seek their forgiveness.
The pontiff made the statement in a letter to archbishops in Chile. His apology follows the release of a 2,300-page report following an investigation into the matter. He did not specify when the meetings would take place. “I have made grave mistakes in the assessment and my perception of the situation, due in particular to a lack of truthful and balanced information,” he wrote in a letter to Chilean bishops.
The report was submitted by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, a top Vatican sexual abuse investigator. The archbishop was investigating allegations that Bishop Juan Barros had ignored accusations of sexual abuse against his mentor Father Fernando Karadima. The Pope had appointed Barros to the post in 2015 despite the allegations against the bishop.
Complainants alleged that Barros was present when Karadima molested several boys in Santiago. The Vatican had found Karadima guilty and sentenced him to a lifetime of “penance and prayer”. The accused, however, is yet to face criminal prosecution in Chile.
The Pope sparked a controversy and protests when, after meeting victims of the alleged abuse, he claimed that Bishop Juan Barros was innocent and accused complainants of committing slander.
The Pope had said: “The day I see proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. There is not a single piece of evidence against him. It is all slander. Is that clear?” Critics had opposed the Vatican’s decision to name Barros a bishop in 2015.
The pontiff later apologised for his comments. He also publicly sought forgiveness for the rape and molestation of children by priests in Chile.