Vatican spokesman on Pope's letter admitting errors in sex abuse case

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Pope Francis has admitted he made "grave errors" in judgment in Chile's sex abuse scandal and invited the abuse victims he had discredited to Rome to beg their forgiveness.

Pope Francis' letter did not give any clue on Barros' future in the church, and it would likely be discussed at the meeting of Chilean bishops in Rome.

The pope's letter follows Vatican investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna who was in Chile to investigate Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid of Osorno, accused of having put the brakes on an investigation of his spiritual father, Fernando Karadima, a charismatic Santiago priest, who inspired numerous vocations including several bishops.

Francis' decision to send Archbishop Scicluna to Santiago to investigate the accusations came after controversy flared during the pope's January 15-18 visit to Chile, during which he responded to a Chilean journalist who asked about the Bishop Barros issue, saying the accusations were "calumny", because there was no proof.

In Chile and during an airborne press conference returning to Rome, Francis had accused the victims of "calumny" for pressing their case against Barros, demanded they present "proof" of their claims, revealed he had twice rejected Barros' resignation and insisted: "I am convinced he is innocent".

A 2,300-page report sent to the pope includes testimony gathered from 64 people in NY and Santiago.

Karadima, the former head of the El Bosque parish in Santiago, was sentenced to a life of penitence and prayer for his abuse of young boys in 2011. "He is saying "I made a mistake", he's saying 'I want to personally ask forgiveness of those I have offended and I am going to call all the bishops of Chile here to discuss what has to change.' He is saying that there will be changes".

After a "careful reading" of the testimonies, the pope said, "I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a brutal way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and, I confess, it has caused me pain and shame".

The pontiff made the statement in a letter to archbishops in Chile.

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He said a lack of "truthful and balanced information" was the reason that he strongly defended Bishop Juan Barros.

Days later, the pope did a turnaround and sent Scicluna to investigate.

The sudden apology came after months of papal denials that resulted in tensions and even arson attacks against Catholic churches in Chile.

The comment prompted uproar from the bishop's critics, several of whom are victims of Karadima's abuse.

"It is also very interesting how seriously the Pope takes this".

He said he felt, in his words, "pain and shame" in an unusual letter released on Wednesday.

Archbishop Scicluna is a well-regarded Vatican expert on sex abuse appeals cases. Victims had accused Barros of witnessing and ignoring their sexual abuse.

'The day I see proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. The archbishop also had 10 years of experience as the Vatican's chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases at the doctrinal congregation.

"Now more than ever we can not fall back into the temptation of verbiage or stain in 'universals, ' he said, and told the bishops to look to Christ in the coming days and weeks".