SANTIAGO – Pope Francis urged on Thursday the Chilean Catholic Church to “create spaces where the culture of abuse and cover-up is not the dominant way of thinking” in a letter that was released by the country’s Episcopal Conference.
“I must say with shame that we did not listen and react in time” to the allegations of abuse within the Chilean Church, the pope said in the letter.
“The culture of abuse and cover-up is incompatible with the logic of the Gospel,” the missive states.
The Chilean bishops were summoned several days ago by the pontiff to The Vatican to deal with the silence of the South American nation’s Church in the face of sexual abuse committed for decades by pedophile priest Fernando Karadima.
At the meeting, the 34 priests who traveled to Rome acknowledged the “serious errors and omissions” in confronting these incidents and decided to resign, although Francis will decide what to do about their situations in the coming weeks.
“The renewal of the ecclesiastical hierarchy alone does not create the transformation to which the Holy Spirit impels us. It is demanded that we jointly promote an ecclesiastical transformation that involves us all,” said the pope in his letter.
The pontiff said that the current period is one of “listening and discernment to get to the roots that allowed such atrocities to occur and to be perpetuated,” and to find solutions to the “scandal of the abuses” and deal with the problem in all its complexity.
“The ‘Never Again’ to the culture of abuse, as well as to the system of cover-up .... demands work by everyone to create a culture of care,” the pope said.
The Chilean Episcopal Conference said it had received the letter with “profound gratitude” and exhorted all Church personnel, including lay workers, to take to heart what Francis requests.
Karadima was found guilty by The Vatican in February 2011 of sexually abusing minors and psychological abuse, although reports of that abuse had first emerged in 1984 and members of the Chilean Church worked to cover up his deeds for decades.