THIRTY-FOUR CHILEAN bishops have resigned over a child sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church after three days of meetings with Pope Francis at the Vatican, a spokesman for the bishops has said.
“We, all the bishops present in Rome, have tendered our resignation to the Holy Father so that he may decide freely for each of us,” a statement read out by the spokesman said.
Yesterday, Pope Francis had promised “changes” to the Chilean church to “restore justice” following a child abuse scandal that has come to haunt his papacy.
In a letter to the 34 bishops, Pope Francis had given no indication of eventual consequences for those suspected of keeping silent about the abuse.
The pope said he had asked for “forgiveness from the heart” from the abuse victims, adding that the Chilean bishops expressed their “firm intention to repair the damage caused”.
The letter ended with a call for the bishops to create a church which listens to “the hungry, the imprisoned, the migrant and the abused”.
In response to this pressure, the bishops have today tended their resignations.
The unprecedented summoning of the Chilean delegation to Rome has given Pope Francis a chance to repair some of the damage done during his visit to the country in January, when his defence of controversial bishop Juan Barros caused a public outcry.
The pontiff had strongly defended Barros who has been accused of covering up abuses by Fernando Karadima, another priest, in the 1980s and ’90s.
Francis at the time said he was convinced of Barros’ innocence and demanded “proof” before he would speak out against him.
Francis later apologised to the victims, admitting he had made “grave mistakes” after reading a 2,300-page report on the abuse in Chile.