Chilean bishops offer resignation to Pope Francis

Pope 'making history' with Chile abuse summit

Four of Chile's bishops have resigned in connection with the child sex abuse scandal engulfing the country's Catholic church as the emergency Vatican session overseen by Pope Francis comes to a close.

The key bishop in the crisis is Juan Barros, whom the pope appointed to the southern city of Osorno in 2015 despite allegations that he had covered up sexual abuse of minors by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.

In a letter to the bishops, shared by the Vatican, Pope Francis said that a "frank" conversation had taken place and that those present had discussed "painful events regarding abuses - of minors, of power and of conscience".

Francis said last month he would take short-, medium- and long-term measures to try to fix the damage to the Chilean church's credibility.

The pope said short, medium and long-term changes had been agreed to by the bishops, in order to "restore justice and ecclesial communion", though he did not specify what they were.

Francis, though, has also been implicated in the scandal, and in his document saying all Chilean bishops bore blame he added "and me first of all".

"The theme of the retreat is more of an ecclesial, theological theme which puts Christ in the center again, those things that we may have forgotten, the other things we have to continue doing", he said, explaining that all of the bishops, including Barros, were able to speak.

In comments to EWTN News Nightly, Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo said the Pope was very welcoming to each of them, and had voiced concern about the expenses of their trip, as some bishops come from poorer dioceses.

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"It does not depend on us. The pope is a man of his word", he said.

Francis had sent Father Bertomeu and the Vatican's top expert to investigate, and they came back with a much broader view of the scale of abuse and cover-up in the church.

The Rev Jordi Bertomeu, a Spaniard in the Vatican office that handles abuse cases, told reporters that he expects "important" measures to be taken to try to fix the Chilean church.

For years, sex abuse victims have blasted the Chilean hierarchy for discrediting their claims, protecting abusers, moving them around rather than reporting them to police and then handing out light sentences when church sanctions are imposed.

After receiving the Scicluna-Bertomeu report, though, Francis did a volte-face, blaming a "lack of truthful and balanced information" about the case for his missteps, and invited the three main whistleblowers to the Vatican so he could apologize in person.

Victims Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo broke the silence surrounding Karadima's abuse, in a case that has reverberated through the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

Karadima, who trained four of the bishops for the priesthood decades ago, was found guilty in a Vatican investigation in 2011 of abusing boys in Santiago in the 1970s and 1980s.

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