Pope apologises to sex abuse victims, defends accused Chilean bishop

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Aboard the Papal flight from Peru Pope Francis apologised to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor.

Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, January 21, the Pope said he only realised later that his words erroneously implied that victims’ accusations are credible only with concrete proof.

“To hear that the Pope says to their face, ‘Bring me a letter with proof,’ is a slap in the face,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, January 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Fr Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?” the Pope had told the reporters in Iquique.

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