On their first day of meetings with Pope Francis, Chilean bishops have been asked to make a 24-hour retreat, using the time to pray and reflect on specific themes provided by Pope Francis until their next audience on Wednesday.
According a May 15 Vatican communique, Pope Francis met with the Chilean bishops today at 4pm local time, marking the first session of the May 15-17 gathering.
Francis gave the bishops a text “with different themes for meditation.” Those themes have not been made public.
From the moment they received the text, “a time dedicated exclusively to prayer and meditation” was inaugurated, which will last until their next meeting Wednesday afternoon.
After Wednesday’s session, the bishops will have two additional meetings on Thursday. Meetings have been planned as a group; it is unknown whether Pope Francis will also hold private audiences with particular bishops.
In a May 14 press conference ahead of the 3-meeting, two Chilean bishops said they came to Rome with “pain and shame” given the magnitude of the abuse scandal in Chile.
The bishops - Fernando Ramos, auxiliary bishop of Santiago, and Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo - said clerical sexual abuse is “unacceptable” and “intolerable,” and is something they are committed to eradicating.
They said their main goals are to listen to what Francis has to say and to find a way forward which brings both healing and reparation for victims, as well as stricter prevention measures.
Pope Francis summoned the bishops to Rome last month following an in-depth investigation into abuse cover-up by Church hierarchy in Chile conducted by Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna earlier this year, which resulted in a 2,300 page report on the investigation's conclusions.
The investigation was centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was appointed to the diocese in 2015 and who has been accused by Cruz and several others of covering up Karadima's abuses, and of participating in acts of abuse. Allegations were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – who Karadima's victims accuse of also covering the abuser's crimes.
Scicluna interviewed some 64 people, many of whom were victims or potential victims, but the scale of the investigation went beyond Barros. It is said to be much more extensive, including details from other cases, such as those involving the Marist Brothers in Chile, who are currently under canonical investigation after allegations of sexual abuse by some of the members surfaced in August 2017.
Pope Francis had previous defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna's report, Francis issued his major “mea culpa” and asked to meet the bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.
Although updates might be published throughout the 3-day encounter, the Vatican has said there will be no final document or communique in order to ensure confidentiality.
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