CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 10 November 2018

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Pope to meet with second group of abuse survivors from Chile

VATICAN (CNS): Pope Francis will meet from June 1 to 3 “five priests who were victims of abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse,” by Chilean Father Fernando Karadima or his followers, the Vatican said in a statement May 22.
 
The pope also invited two priests who have accompanied the survivors “in their juridical and spiritual journey” and “two laypeople involved in this suffering” were also invited, the statement said. They will all be guests at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican residence where Pope Francis lives.
 
The pope is scheduled to celebrate a private Mass with the group on June 2 and will meet with members of the group together and individually, the statement said. 
 
In late April, Pope Francis had hosted three lay people who were sexually abused by Father Karadima (Sunday Examiner, May 6).
 
“With this new meeting, planned a month ago, Pope Francis wants to show his closeness to abused priests, accompany them in their pain and listen to their valuable opinion to improve the current preventative measures and the fight against abuses in the Church,” the statement said.
 
The day after the Vatican announcement, three Chilean priests who will take part in the meeting read a statement on behalf of all nine, confirming their participation in the meetings with Pope Francis.
 
At a news conference in Santiago, Chile on May 23, Father Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, Father Alejandro Vial Amunategui and Father Eugenio de la Fuente Lora thanked the pope for his invitation, which they said they hoped would “re-establish justice and communion, particularly within our Archdiocese of Santiago and its presbyteries.”
 
The statement was signed by the three priests, as well as Father Javier Barros Bascunan and Father Sergio Cobo Montalva, and four others who wished to remain anonymous.
 
They expressed the “hope that our experience may give a voice to many others who have suffered abuses or have accompanied abused persons.”
 
The Chilean priests also asked journalists to respect the “confidentiality and the privacy” of the meetings and that there will be “no more public statements until our return to Santiago.”
 
The Vatican said the priests were abused by Father Karadima and his followers in the parish of Sagrado Corazon de Providencia, also known as the community of El Bosque (The forest).
 
Known as an influential and charismatic priest, Father Karadima founded a Catholic Action group in the wealthy Santiago parish and drew hundreds of young men to the priesthood. Four of Father Karadima’s protégès went on to become bishops, including Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who, along with other members of Father Karadima’s inner circle, is alleged by survivors to have witnessed their abuse by his mentor.
 
Pope called all the bishops of Chile to the Vatican for meetings from May 15 to 17 after which most of bishops offered their resignations (Sunday Examiner, May 27).
 
Back in Chile, bishops—including Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua, president of the Chilean bishops’ commission for abuse prevention—continue to face a backlash over their handling of cases of abuse.
 
Bishop Goic suspended 14 of the diocese’s 68 priests May 19 after an investigative report by Tele 13 alleged there was a sex-abuse ring made up of clergy and known as La Cofradia (The Brotherhood).
 
The report also alleged that although Bishop Goic was informed and presented with evidence of the group’s existence by Elsa Fernandez, a local youth minister, he refused to act.
 
In an interview published on the Tele 13 website on May 22, Bishop Goic said he had thought people talking about La Cofradia were speaking “in jest” and said he “never received a formal complaint that seriously said this was happening.”
 
After the report’s broadcast, Bishop Goic acknowledged that he had met with Fernandez, and he apologised for his failure to act “with the appropriate agility in the investigation” of the priests allegedly involved in the sex abuse ring.
 
“I must admit that personally, as a Christian and a pastor, I find myself very affected by this difficult situation that hurts and embarrasses me,” the bishop said. 
 
“I pray that the truth, the whole truth, may come to light in these cases and in any other situations that threaten the gospel of Christ’s love,” he said.

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