It is a unique event in recent church history: the pope summons an entire bishops' conference to Rome to deal with the abuse scandal in Chile in a mini-synod.
Although Francis had already asked for forgiveness for the mistakes made by the Catholic Church in the abuse scandal there during his trip to Chile in January. Subsequently, however, he also spoke of slander – for example, against the bishop he appointed, Juan Barros. But when his special investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, gave him a 2.When the Brazilian government presented its 300-page report, it was clear that the scandal of decades of sexual abuse was far worse than expected.
In a letter to Chile's bishops in early April, the pope admitted making mistakes. Francis asked for forgiveness and ordered bishops to Rome. Over the weekend, the 33 bishops arrived one by one, including Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz. Initially, the pope's longtime confidant had wanted to forgo the trip because he had spoken with Francis about three weeks ago on the sidelines of a meeting of the K9 Council of Cardinals.
Three days set aside for talks
On Saturday, however, the 84-year-old boarded a plane to Rome after all. He has changed his mind, the newspaper "La Tercera" quoted him as saying. The Pope had called him to come, the report said. Starting Tuesday, Francis plans to first share his conclusions from Scicluna's investigative report with the 33 bishops and consult with them. At his side: Canadian Curia Cardinal Marc Ouellet. As head of the Congregation of Bishops, he will have to help implement the results of the meeting.
The venue is the small hall of the Paul VI Synod Hall. It is indeed about a "synodal process," the Vatican announced. For three days, Francis wants to consult with the bishops and clarify who is responsible for what extent that it could come so far in Chile. And how it can be better in the future: Help for the victims, prevention and new trust in the Church.
First listen, then consult
It's no longer just about Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno. He is accused of witnessing abuse as a young man in the 1980s by now 87-year-old convicted priest Fernando Karadima and remaining silent about it. Other bishops also accused. Errazuriz is said by victims to have long prevented a prosecution of Karadima.
Two weeks ago, the pope had already received three Chilean abuse victims. For several days, the men spoke with him about sexual abuse and the resistance they faced when they tried to bring the truth to light. They also presented reform proposals to the head of the church. Apparently this was the pope's wish – as was the order of the meetings: First the victims, then the bishops – first listen, then consult.
Do not get stuck in brooding!
Some of Chile's bishops seem to be on edge. Some of them were already calling for resignations, while the pope did not mention any names, including Barros'. Francis does not want scapegoats, but shepherds who take responsibility.
Francis had already explained how this could look in January in his speech to priests and religious in Santiago de Chile. In it, he warned against making fundamental mistakes during a crisis: getting stuck in brooding, debating mere ideas instead of dealing with the concrete situation, taking on opponents instead of recognizing one's own mistakes.
There will be no statements from the pope during and after the consultations, the Vatican said. If and what the Chilean bishops will say is uncertain. The pope will leave it up to them. As leaders of their local churches, Chile's bishops must decide for themselves what is best for the good of the church and the people in the weeks, months and years ahead.
They will be able to call on the papal curia – such as the Congregation for Bishops or the Child Protection Commission – for support. They will have to go the necessary ways – set in the track by the pope – themselves.