By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) — A delegation of Chilean bishops met Monday with Pope Francis a year after he threw his papacy into turmoil by defending a Chilean bishop accused of covering for a notorious sexual predator.
The five-member permanent committee of the Chilean bishops’ conference requested Monday’s meeting to brief Francis on its efforts to address the clergy sex abuse crisis in the South American country and chart a future course.
“It’s a long process,” the secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Fernando Ramos, told reporters after the meeting, which included lunch and lasted for nearly three hours. “All institutions in Chile have lost a lot of credibility, the church included, not just for cultural reasons but because of our own sins and crimes that were committed inside the church.”
The pope’s January 2018 trip to Chile fueled a crisis of confidence in the Chilean Church and the Vatican hierarchy, given the mounting claims of sex abuse and cover-up that were dismissed for years.
After returning home, Francis commissioned an investigation, admitted he had been was wrong about the accused bishop, Juan Barros, and pressured every active Chilean bishop to resign.
To date, the pope has accepted seven of those resignations, but several more are expected.
Two members of the delegation, for example, are under investigation by Chilean prosecutors for their alleged roles in the cover-up.
Ramos claimed the resignation offers expired after three months, but a Vatican official has said there’s no such expiration.
Ramos described the meeting as “cordial” and “interesting.”
Francis has claimed he was misinformed about the Barros case by members of the Chilean hierarchy. Recently he removed the retired archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, from his inner cabinet.