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News > Latin America

Chile: Pope Meets Sex Abuse Victims, Fails to Announce Action

  • Pope Francis meets with bishops in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Santiago, Chile.

    Pope Francis meets with bishops in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Santiago, Chile. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 January 2018

According to a Vatican press release the private meeting lasted only thirty minutes, during which Pope Francis prayed and cried with the victims.

After asking for forgiveness twice for the sexual abuse of minors by members of the catholic clergy in Chile, Pope Francis met with a small group of victims later on Tuesday as he completed the first day of his three-day visit to the country.

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His spokesperson Greg Burke confirmed the pope met with a "small group" in a private meeting with no media coverage. According to Burke the victims shared their stories of suffering with Pope Francis, "who listened to them, prayed and cried with them."

No details on the identity of the victims or the abusers were released, although there is particular interest in knowing if among the victims were those abused by Chilean priest Fernando Karadima, who was accused of a series of sexual abuse in 2004.

His case was shelved by Chilean civil courts, however, in February 2011 the Vatican announced, following a canonical process, that Karadima was guilty of sexual abuse and of abusing the power vested in him by the church.

The case was briefly reopened by a Chilean criminal court, but the judicial proceedings were suspended in May 2011. Because Karadima was only charged by the Vatican, he was only sentenced to retire "in a life of prayer and penitence."

According to United States-based NGO Bishop Accountability, in Chile almost 80 clergymen have sexually abused children since 2000. Before the meeting the Pope had said "I cannot stop expressing the pain and shame I feel for the irreparable damage caused to children by ministers of the church."

The pontiff's visit was met with nationwide protests against sexual abuse that have resulted in at least 100 people detained as the police dispersed protesters who had gathered in Santiago's O'Higgins park.

Pope Arrives in Chile Amid Escalating Protests

Demonstrators carried signs denouncing "pedophile accomplices", and people dressed as nuns and clergymen held a sign that read "Francis, accomplice of pedophile crimes."

Other groups have also led violent attacks on churches across Chile. Five attacks were reported during the weekend leading to the pope's visit. Local news outlets reported three new attacks Tuesday. In one of the attacks in the capital city, protesters hurled a molotov cocktail and burned the church's main entrance.

At the beginning of his tenure Pope Francis announced a zero-tolerance policy towards clergy sexual abuse, however in 2015 he appointed a protege of a priest who had been accused of child molestation, Bishop Juan Barros, in the southern Chilean city of Osorno.

Juan Claret, spokesperson for the Laity Association of Osorno, told AFP that asking for forgiveness was not enough. "We need concrete action that the pope is not taking against the abusers in the Chilean church."

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