Pope Francis began a three-day, closed-door meeting today with 34 Chilean bishops who have been summoned to the Vatican over their possible involvement in a sexual abuse cover-up that dates to the 1970s. It's expected that some of the present bishops will resign or be expunged from the Catholic church.
"We feel pain and shame," Fernando Ramos, an auxiliary bishop of Santiago, told reporters today at the start of the meeting.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez said some of the implicated bishops may resign or be sacked.
"It does not depend on us. Each person must decide this together with the pope," Gonzalez said.
The pope started off today’s meeting by handing each cleric a list of themes he told them to meditate and pray on until the convened again tomorrow.
After Pope Francis publically dismissed the accusations in January that Father Juan Barros may have been complicit in covering up a major pedophile ring by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima during the 1970s and 1980s in Santiago, Francis sent top church investigators to Chile to look into these allegations in February and was finished in April.
The 2,300-page April report will be the main part of the pope’s agenda over the next three days.
While Karadima was found guilty of pedophilia and expelled by the church in 2011, his main accusers - Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton, and Jose Andres Murillo - long told Chilean clerics that Barros enabled Karadima’s abuse. Cruz even wrote a handwritten letter directly to the pope in 2015 detailing Barros’s complicity.
It wasn’t until April when the investigation was complete that the pope admitted to making “grave errors” regarding Barros, whom Francis appointed the bishop of Osorno in 2015.
Another high cleric accused of taking part in the Karadima cover-up is Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, who once alluded that Cruz was a “snake” for bringing for accusations of abuse against the church-beloved Karadima.
Errazuriz released a letter the other day obtained by the AP claiming that has been "defamed" by accusations that he knew about Karadima’s illegal behavior while archbishop of Santiago during the 1990s and early 2000s.
"It's clear there was never any crime or cover-up" on his part, wrote Errazuriz. "I've been publicly defamed in recent weeks, branded as a delinquent, criminal” complained the cardinal. In the communique, he insists he was merely following church law in waiting five years to launch an investigation into Karadima.
The cardinal ends his letter saying were he to do it over again, he wouldn't hand off the investigation to a deputy as he did, which served to distance him from the victims.
"This distance unjustly hurt the victims in a way that I never intended," he wrote. "I'm profoundly sorry this wound hasn't healed."
The Vatican meeting is set to adjourn on Thursday.