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Chile’s bishops admit mistakes in handling sexual abuse cases

VATICAN (CNS): Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo, Chile, acknowledged the damage inflicted on survivors of clerical sex abuse and the mishandling of cases by Church leaders in the country. “We have made mistakes,” he said.
“Receiving information that sexual abuses occurred in our community left many people in shock, because it is something that is unacceptable, intolerable, unjustifiable from every point of view,” the bishop said.
Bishop Gonzalez, together with Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, met with journalists on May 14, prior to meeting with Pope Francis together with other bishops of Chile from May 15 to 17.
The pope called the three-day meeting to “examine the causes and consequences” of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and acknowledge personal responsibility and “the mechanisms that in some cases led to a cover up and serious omissions regarding the victims,” the Vatican said in a statement on May 12, adding that 31 Chilean diocesan and auxiliary bishops, along with two retired bishops, were scheduled to meet with Pope Francis in one of the small meeting rooms behind the Vatican audience hall.
The objective was “to discern together, in the presence of God, the responsibility of all and each one in these devastating injuries, as well as to study appropriate and lasting changes that would prevent the repetition of these always reprehensible acts,” the statement said.
Marc Cardinal Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, was to join in the meeting, the Vatican said.
The goal was “to re-establish trust in the Church through good shepherds who witness with their lives that they have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd and know how to accompany the suffering of the victims and work in a determined and untiring way in the prevention of abuse,” the statement said.
Media reports in Chile indicated that Francisco Javier Errazuriz Cardinal Ossa, the former archbishop of Santiago and a member of Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals, would not attend the meeting.
The three Chilean abuse survivors who met Pope Francis at the Vatican from April 27 to 29 (Sunday Examiner, May 6) accused the cardinal of covering up the abuse committed by Father Fernando Karadima who in 2011, was found guilty by a Vatican tribunal and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. 
The survivors also claimed the cardinal was an active participant in campaigns to cast doubts on their honesty and their motives in coming forward. 
A statement published by the Chilean Bishops’ Conference May 10 said, “We reiterate our unity with Pope Francis in the pain and shame he expressed about the crimes committed against minors and adults in church settings.”
Issued by the permanent committee of the conference, the statement said the bishops also realise that despite steps they have taken, “it has not always been possible to heal the wounds of abuse, which continue to be an open wound in the hearts of the victims and for the people of God.”
The statement said that Pope Francis’ meetings in April with the three survivors, “set an example and showed us the path that the Chilean Church is called to follow in the face of accusations of abuse of conscience, sexual abuse and, ultimately, against any abuse of power that may occur within our communities.”

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