Pope Francis meets Chile sex abuse victims; ‘cries with them’

SANTIAGO – Pope Francis publicly expressed “pain and shame” on Tuesday over the rape and molestation of children by priests in Chile and later listened, prayed and cried at a private meeting with victims.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the meeting took place in the Vatican embassy in Santiago. “No one else was present. Only the pope and the victims,” the spokesman said. “This was so they could speak of their suffering to Pope Francis, who listened to them and prayed and cried with them.”

It was the end of an intense day for the pope, during which he spoke of sexual abuse twice, once asking forgiveness for abuses he said had done “irreparable damage” to victims.

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The scandal has gripped Chile, prompting many politicians to criticize the Church in the staunchly Catholic country. The crisis centered on the pope’s appointment in 2015 of Bishop Juan Barros to head the small diocese of Osorno in south-central Chile.

Barros, who attended a papal Mass on Tuesday, has been accused of protecting his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing teenage boys over many years.

Karadima has denied the allegations, and Barros said he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

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 Karadima.

Francis returned to the theme of abuse on Tuesday evening in an address to priests and nuns in Santiago’s cathedral.-MercoPress