Magazine article The Christian Century

Pope's Visit to Chile Met with Protests, Anger from Abuse Survivors

Magazine article The Christian Century

Pope's Visit to Chile Met with Protests, Anger from Abuse Survivors

Article excerpt

During Francis's first visit to Chile as pope, he addressed the country's clergy sexual abuse scandal while also facing fierce criticism for his response to that issue.

The Argentine pope studied in Chile during his Jesuit novitiate, and he knows the country well. But Chileans gave him the lowest approval rating of the 18 Latin American nations in a recent survey.

Several churches were set on fire in the days before and during his visit, including one that burned to the ground in the southern Araucania region. Francis celebrated mass in the region on January 17.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up a protest during a big open-air mass in the capital, Santiago. They detained several dozen demonstrators, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Some protesters carried signs reading "Burn, pope!" and "We don't care about the pope!"

Despite the incidents, huge numbers of Chileans turned out to see Francis, including an estimated 400,000 for his mass. Visiting a women's prison, he brought some inmates to tears. But his meeting with abuse survivors was what many Chileans most awaited.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said Francis "listened to them, prayed with them, and wept with them."

Earlier in the day, Francis told President Michelle Bachelet and other Chilean officials that he felt "bound to express my pain and shame" that some of Chile's clergy had sexually abused children in their care. "It is right to ask forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again."

Francis did not name Chile's most notorious pedophile priest, Fernando Karadima, who in 2011 was barred from all pastoral duties and sanctioned by the Vatican to spend the rest of his life in "penance and prayer" for sexually molesting minors. Nor did Francis refer to the fact that the emeritus archbishop of Santiago, a top papal adviser, has acknowledged he knew of complaints against Karadima but didn't remove him from ministry.

Survivors went public in 2010 with accounts that Karadima had kissed and fondled them when they were teenagers.

Many Chileans are still furious over Francis's decision in 2015 to appoint Juan Barros, a Karadima protege, as bishop of the southern city of Osorno. Barros has denied knowing about Karadima's abuse, but many Chileans don't believe him and his appointment has split the diocese. …

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