Chile’s Catholic Church calls for ‘drastic solution’ following abuse scandal

SANTIAGO, (Reuters) – Chile’s Roman Catholic Church called yesterday for a “drastic solution” that could include resignations, a day after Pope Francis acknowledged “grave mistakes” in handling a sexual abuse crisis and summoned its leaders to Rome.

At a meeting of Church leadership on Chile’s central coast, Santiago Silva, the president of the Episcopal Conference, said change was inevitable.

“It’s possible that the pope will ask some (bishops) to leave their diocese … there must be a drastic solution, strong and decisive, that is for certain,” Silva told local radio station Cooperativa.

In an extraordinary step, Pope Francis said in a letter on Wednesday that he had made mistakes in his assessment of the crisis. In January, he had dismissed as “slander” accusations that Chilean bishop Juan Barros had covered up sexual abuse of minors by his mentor Father Fernando Karadima.

Barros told Chilean media at the meeting of Church leadership that “the pope always seeks the best for everyone.” Barros was appointed bishop of Osorno, in southern Chile, by Pope Francis in 2015.

Osorno parishioners said on Wednesday that specific measures, including the resignation of Barros, were needed to restore confidence in the Church.

The pope’s letter followed a visit to Chile by one of the Vatican’s most experienced sexual abuse investigators, Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

Scicluna’s 2,300-page report prompted Francis to summon Chile’s bishops to Rome for a meeting. He did not say when it would take place.

“We will meet with the pope and we will propose to him a plan of renovation for the Church,” Silva said on Thursday.

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