Chilean Sex Abuse Victims Say Pope Has Apologized

Three victims of clerical sexual abuse in Chile said Wednesday Pope Francis asked them for forgiveness in his name and on behalf of the Catholic Church.

The men have been guests of Pope Francis at the Vatican, discussing tough issues such as sexual abuse, abuse of power and especially an alleged cover-up by Chilean bishops.

They have been staying at the Santa Marta residence inside the Vatican where Pope Francis lives. They said over the past week, they finally met the friendly face of the Church, completely different to what they said they saw until now.

Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo are the survivors of the Chilean church’s most notorious sexual abuser, Father Fernando Karadima. Their testimony was key in the Vatican’s decision to remove him from the ministry and order him in 2011 to a lifetime of penance and prayer.

Despite this, the men said that for almost 10 years they were treated and considered enemies due to their fight against sexual abuse and cover up in the Church.

Speaking for all three survivors of clerical sexual abuse in Chile, Juan Carlos Cruz said in their individual and joint meetings with Pope Francis they were able to speak frankly and respectfully with him.

“We talked about difficult issues such as sexual abuse, abuse of power, and especially the cover-up of the Chilean bishops — realities that we do not refer to as sins but as crimes and corruption that do not end in Chile but are an epidemic,” he said.

The men said this said is an epidemic that has destroyed many lives, people who trusted and felt betrayed in their faith. They added that they discussed with Pope Francis the pathological and unlimited exercise of power, which they said, 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 unfortunately does not happen today,” said Cruz.

In January, during a visit to Chile, Pope Francis sought to discredit the men’s claims that a bishop covered up their abuse, calling the victims’ assertions “calumny.” Last month, he acknowledged that he had made “grave mistakes” in the handling of the sexual abuse crisis in Chile, saying he felt shame for what had happened.

In a separate case, Cardinal George Pell appeared for an administrative first hearing in a court in Australia, where he is to stand trial after a magistrate decided he should face a jury.

Details of the charges and their number are not yet public but relate to his time as a priest in the 1970s and as archbishop in the 1990s. Cardinal Pell, who is on a leave of absence as the Pope’s de-facto Finance Minister, is the most senior Vatican official ever to be charged with sexual abuse.