Santiago: Pope Francis reacting on the recent child abuses in Chile asked forgiveness from the child abuse victims during his first visit to their country as pontiff.Pope expressed his grief during a ceremony at the presidential palace saying that “I cannot express enough the pain and shame I feel due to the irreparable damage caused to children by those in the church”. He joined his fellow bishops in asking apologies, supporting victims and ensuring abuse doesn’t happen again. Chile’s Catholic Church had already started losing its faith since 2010, when it was found to have hidden up for a well- known and powerful priest who used to sexually abuse minors, mostly from 11 to 14 aged in his posh Santiago parish over decades. Rev Fernando Karadima, was eventually sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011, but the church has yet to restore from this tragedy. People are still furious over Francis’s 2015 decision to appoint a bishop who had been priest’s trainee. Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno has always denied that he knew what Karadima was doing, but many Chileans had a very tough time believing that.
“People are leaving the church because they don’t find a protective space there,” said Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of church members in Osorno that has been against Barros’ appointment as Bishop. “It’s not the time for apologies anymore; it’s the time for action,” said a Chilean who was abused by a priest when he was a 17-year-old seminarian. “Here in Chile there are bishops who have witnessed abuse and who have covered that up and who have abused as well and they are still in their position. The pope should remove them.” Pope said that until and unless he sees evidence that Bishop Juan Barros was guilty in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, such allegations against Barros are “all calumny.”The statistics say that there are about 20,000 cases of sexual abuse in Chile each year. Majority of the victims are children under the age of 11.
Only 10% of cases are brought to court. As per 2017 reports there are 862 priests in Chile. A US based database “Bishopaccountability.org” reveals the records of the accused priests worldwide. In Chile so far 80 priests have been publicly accused of sexually abusing minors since the year 2000.
The investigations are still going on.