Chilean Abuse Victims Meet Up With Pope Francis

By Mei Manuel, May 03, 2018 05:05 AM


Several victims of sexual abuse by a Chilean priest have shared that they have met with Pope Francis in the weekend at the Vatican on Wednesday and complained about a "pathological and unlimited exercise of power" within the Church which facilitated the cover-up of a sex scandal in their country.

In their joint statement after their private meetings with the pope, the three victims - James Hamilton, Juan Carlos Cruz and Jose Andres Murillo - shared that the pope has asked them for forgiveness for not having taken their plight seriously when the issue started.

In the statement, they said, "For almost 10 years, we have been treated as enemies because we fight against sexual abuse and cover-up in the Church. These days we met the friendly face of the Church, completely different from the one we had met before."

"We spoke with the pope about the pathological and unlimited exercise of power, which is the cornerstone of sexual abuse and cover-up. We expressed to him how the Church has the duty to become an ally and a guide in the global fight against abuse and a refuge for the victims, something that does not happen today."

Last month, the Pope had acknowledged he made a grave mistake in handling the issue of sexual abuse in Chile and said he felt shame for what had happened. He originally defended Barros in his visit in Chile in January; however, it earned negative public reaction and forced him to review the case again.

His statement followed the Vatican investigation led by noted Vatican sexual abuse investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to look into the backgrund of Bishop Juan Barros, who was appointed as a bishop in 2015 by the pope despite allegations that he had been covering up sexual abuse of minors committed by his mentor Father Fernando Karadima. Scicluna also looked into other bishops and spoke to the victims. After his investigation, Scicluna produced a 2,300-page report which led the pope to call for a meeting with all of Chile's bishops this month to consider how to handle the issue. 

In 2011, Karadima had been removed by the Vatican from the ministry after the three men testified against him and ordered him to undergo a lifetime of penance and prayer. Karadima had been accused of the crime since 1984, but the church investigators in Chile had done nothing against it until the charges were made public in 2010.

The three victims said that the Pope was "very attentive, receptive, and very empathetic to their cause" and they have spoken to him "frankly and respectfully... especially about the cover-up of the Chilean bishops."

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