Friday, 20 April, 2018

Pope's letter to Chile shows "spiritual state of emergency"

Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis speaks during a public meeting of Charlottetown city council at the Rodd Charlottetown hotel Tuesday Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis speaks during a public meeting of Charlottetown city council in this Guardian file
Lillian Steele | 13 April, 2018, 01:43

In a letter to 32 Chilean bishops released by the Vatican, Francis said he meant to summon them to Rome to discuss an investigation into an alleged cover-up by Bishop Juan Barros of abuse by paedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.

Then soon after his visit, Pope Francis, in a stunning about-face, made a decision to send to Chile Archbishop Scicluna - the Catholic Church's top expert on investigating sex abuse - to review "recently received information concerning the case" of Bishop Barros.

Francis said the meeting, which comes just a year after the Chilean bishops were last in Rome on a regular visit, would have as its objective "repairing scandal where possible and re-establishing justice".

Critics accused the pope of not understanding the depth of the crisis after he initially defended Barros and said he was the victim of slander.

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

Karadima, who has been exposed as a sexual predator and was laicized in 2010 when 80, was ordered by the Vatican to "retire to a life of prayer and penitence".

The pope has not said whether he will ask Madrid to step down, but has asked the country's bishops to visit Rome for a meeting in the near future.

"The collected testimonies speak in a stark way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives, and I confess to you that that causes me sorrow and shame", the pope wrote in the letter, which the Vatican made public on Wednesday.

In the three-page letter in Spanish, issued simultaneously at the Vatican and in Chile, the head of the Roman Catholic Church said he wanted to "re-establish trust in the Church, trust that was broken by our errors and sins and heal the wounds that continue to bleed in Chilean society". "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.

In his letter, Francis said the Chilean Church now had "to fix the scandal as much as possible and restore justice".

In addition, he summoned all of Chile's 32 bishops to Rome to discuss the conclusions of Archbishop Scicluna's report in the third week of May, where they will discussion the conclusions of the report as well the Pope's own conclusions on the matter.

It's unclear what changes Francis has in mind for the Chilean Church.

Opponents of Bishop Barros have been vocal since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno, with many, including a number of Karadima's victims, accusing the bishop of covering up the abuse, and also also at times participating.

"It is also very interesting how seriously the Pope takes this".

Before going to Santiago Feb. 19 to interview witnesses related to the Bishop Barros accusations, Archbishop Scicluna stopped in NY to interview Cruz. Victims had accused Barros of witnessing and ignoring their sexual abuse.

In August 2017, the Marist Brothers reported that a member of the congregation had admitted to abusing 14 boys in Chile.

However, speaking to reporters, he pledged his support for Bishop Barros and said: "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak".

One of the Vatican's most experienced sexual abuse investigators went to Chile to find out more.

The bishops, he said, shared in the pope's pain.

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