“Process of reparation and healing”

To deal with the abuse scandal in the Chilean church, the third round of talks with Pope Francis ended over the weekend. The talks were about comfort and closeness. But also for forgiveness.

Since Friday, the Pope has hosted several clergymen from Chile, with whom he had a total of more than four hours of intensive individual and group discussions on Saturday. This is how two of them described it to journalists on Saturday evening.

Against the system of abuse and cover-up

"After these very personal conversations, we are full of hope," said Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa. As a priest and professor of canon law, he supports victims of abuse in their struggle for clarification of the injustice they have suffered. The Pope, Astaburuaga says, has once again asked for forgiveness.

The talks were about closeness and comfort and the healing of wounds. His confrere Eugenio de la Fuente Lora once again let it be known how bad the system of abuse and cover-up had been. More concrete statements the two priests did not want to make.

The group Francis hosted included five priests from the circle of Fernando Karadima, now 87, who was convicted of sexual offenses by the Vatican in 2011. They were accompanied by two other priests, who provide legal and spiritual assistance to victims, and two lay people. The group will fly back to Chile on Monday afternoon.

Pope approachable, open and natural

Overall, Astaburuaga and de la Fuente Lora were very satisfied with the meeting. They experienced the pope as being open, natural and attentive. All in all, there must be a profound change in the church, according to the two priests. The laity must also take on more responsibility, and priests and bishops must recognize and honor this. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) called for nothing else.

A letter from the Pope to all Chilean Catholics was published on Thursday. In it, he asks for support to remove the "culture of abuse" and the "system of cover-up" from the breeding ground. At the same time, he admits to shame for not having listened to the victims earlier.

Above all, however, he opposes a control-oriented clericalism, ecclesiastical elitism and theological narrowness that have led to a "desolation and perversion" of the church.

Has not accepted any resignation so far

The pope began his talks at the end of April during a meeting with three victims of abuse from Chile that lasted just under a week. Then, in mid-May, all the bishops of the country were at the Vatican. 29 of 31 active chief shepherds offered to resign in response. So far the pope has not accepted any.

However, last week Francis again sent his two special investigators, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and ecclesiastical lawyer Jordi Bertomeu from the disciplinary department of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Chile. In the diocese of Juan Barros, which sparked the current debate in January and is accused of covering up for Karadima, he wants them to advance the "process of reparation and healing".

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