April 12 (UPI) -- Pope Francis told bishops in Chile he feels "pain and shame" for the "crucified lives" of clergy-related sex abuse victims, saying he made "serious mistakes" in his handling of the cases.
The pope angered abuse victims in January by accusing them of slandering Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who accusers say protected priest Rev. Fernando Karadima. The pontiff had said there was no evidence against Madrid.
In a letter Wednesday to followers, the pope asked for forgiveness and said he misjudged the severity of the cases. He said his perception was "due to a lack of truthful and balanced information."
The papal apology stems from a recent investigation by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna into potential abuse cover-up. Scicluna's 2,300-page March 20 report includes testimony from abuse victims.
"I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a stark manner, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and I confess that this has caused me pain and shame," Pope Francis said after a "slow reading" of the report.
"I apologize to all those I have offended," he said, adding that he plans to apologize personally to some of the survivors who testified.
The pope has not said whether he will ask Madrid to step down, but has asked the country's bishops to visit Rome for a meeting in the near future.
Karadima, the former head of the El Bosque parish in Santiago, was sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer for his abuse of young boys in 2011.