Crisis meetings between Pope Francis and 34 Chilean bishops began Tuesday to address the issue of sexual abuse and a purported cover up. Photo courtesy the Vatican
May 15 (UPI) -- Pope Francis began meeting with nearly three dozen Chilean bishops Tuesday to address what victims say has been a cover-up of sexual abuse by clergy.
The pope summoned the bishops to the Vatican after saying he feels "pain and shame" for the "crucified lives" of clergy-related sex abuse victims. The pontiff also acknowledged he made serious mistakes in his handling of the cases.
Pope Francis angered abuse victims earlier this year when he indicated Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, accused of covering up for Catholic Rev. Fernando Karadima, had been slandered. The pope said there was no evidence against Madrid.
Karadima was found guilty and sacked for abusing dozens of minors over a decades-long period beginning in the 1980s. Victims say Barros had knowledge of the abuse but did nothing to stop it.
The closed-door meetings aim to craft a response to the abuse crisis that rocked the Church in Chile, the Vatican said in a statement Tuesday.
Chilean Bishop Fernando Ramos said the meetings would address "abuse of power, abuse of conscience, and sexual abuse that have occurred in recent decades in the Chilean Church, as well as the mechanisms that led, in some cases, to concealment and serious omissions against the victims."
"There are people who are victims of abuse and this causes us profound pain and shame," Ramos added. "Because these abuses occurred in Church environments which is precisely where this type of abuse should never occur."
Bishop Juan Ignacio González said the bishops praise Pope Francis for admitting his mistakes, asking forgiveness and meeting with victims.
"The victims are the center of our attention," González said. "And for this reason the Church in Chile must work towards reparation, with humility and hope, following the teaching of Jesus."