Chile's bishops acknowledge heads could roll over abuse cover-up

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A Chilean bishop acknowledged the damage inflicted on survivors of clerical sex abuse and the mishandling of cases by Church leaders in the country.

He later apologized to the victims, admitting he had made "grave mistakes" after reading a 2,300-page report on the abuse in Chile.

Echoing Pope Francis' 11 April letter to the Chilean bishops, Bishop Ramos told journalists that the bishops felt "pain and shame" for the abuses committed.

They said they wanted to listen to Francis and follow his lead in asking forgiveness.

He said: "If he asks, we'll do it".

Chile's Catholic bishops said Monday (local time) they were open to whatever Pope Francis proposes to overhaul the Chilean church, including the removal of bishops, reforms of seminaries and paying financial reparation to victims of a clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

The behind-closed-doors meetings in the Vatican is to involve the Pope, 31 diocesan and auxiliary bishops from Chile, two retired bishops, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

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The unprecedented summoning of the Chilean delegation is also a chance for Francis to fix some of the damage done during his visit to Chile in January, when his defense of controversial Chilean bishop Juan Barros caused a public outcry.

It is fundamental to restore trust in the Church through good pastors who testify with their life that they have heard the voice of the Good Pastor, who know how to accompany the suffering of the victims and to work decidedly and tirelessly on the prevention of abuses.

Juan Carlos Cruz and others said that Barros witnessed his being abused by Fr Fernando Karadima in the 1980s, and did nothing about it.

The pontiff strongly defended Barros, who was also accused of covering up Karadima's abuses, saying that he was convinced of his innocence and demanding "proof" before he would speak out against him. Many people are expecting certain bishops to step down.

"There are people who are victims of abuse and this causes us profound pain and shame", Ramos added.

While the 81-year-old Pope has said he did not envisage a long papacy, he hasn't said explicitly if he'd retire.