Pope apologises for 'serious mistakes' in judging Chilean abuse cases

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Critics accused Pope Francis of not understanding the depth of the crisis after he initially defended Bishop Juan Barros and said he was the victim of slander.

In a letter to Chile's bishops, the Pope admitted to misjudging the severity of the affair: 'I have made serious mistakes in the judgement and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information'.

After causing an outcry, Francis sent the Vatican's most respected sex abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, to get to the bottom of the scandal.

Anne Barrett Doyle, of BishopAccountability.org, an online abuse resource, noted an Associated Press report that Francis received a personal letter about Barros' misdeeds from a victim in 2015, but seemingly chose to ignore it.

Such gatherings are rare and usually take place in a period of crisis in a national Church, such as when the USA paedophile priest scandal broke in 2002.

Such gatherings are rare and usually take place in a period of crisis in a national Church.

The Holy Father summoned Chile's bishops to Rome to address the issue, and invited victims to meet with him, as well.

Other clerics more favorable to Barros had Francis' ear: the Vatican ambassador, who has always been hostile to Barros' accusers; the retired archbishop of Santiago, who has accused Cruz of being a liar and "serpent"; and an old Spanish Jesuit friend who evaluated Barros years ago.

He said he felt "pain and shame" in reading the 2,300-page dossier his envoys prepared.

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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 a conversation with journalists on the way back to Rome, Pope Francis apologized, but said there was no evidence condemning Bishop Barros, and that so far, no victims had come forward.

"From now on I ask forgiveness of all those I offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks", Francis wrote. In 2011, Fr Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. 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. The letter does not discuss the future of Barros. "It's all calumny. Is that clear?" the pope lashed out against Barros's accusers only months ago, in January.

"The day I see proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk".

"I can't condemn him because I don't have evidence". It is all slander.

Many of Chile's bishops, and members of Francis' own sex abuse advisory board, had questioned Barros' suitability to lead a diocese given claims by Karadima's victims that Barros stood by and did nothing while Karadima groped them.

Following the release of Pope Francis' letter, Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, president of the bishops' conference and head of the military ordinariate, said the bishops of Chile would travel to the Vatican in the third week of May.

In a statement, Osorno parishioners said they appreciated the Pope's change of heart and accepted his plea for forgiveness.

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