Pope begins purge in Chilean church over sex abuse scandal

Pope accepts resignation of three bishops over Chile sexual abuse scandal

Pope Francis accepts resignation of three Chilean bishops

Pope Francis accepted the resignation Monday of the bishop at the center of Chile's clerical sex abuse scandal and two others, launching a purge of a Catholic Church that has lost its credibility under an avalanche of accusations of abuse and cover-up.

As BBC notes, it remains unclear whether the resignation of the remaining 31 bishops will be accepted, but, in any case, it seems that Pope Francis has succumbed to the pressure, in spite of the fact that he had initially defended Bishop Juan Barros during his visit to Chile in January this year.

The other two bishops whose resignations were accepted had submitted them prior to the pope's summit after having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

It was the Pope's 2015 decision to name Bishop Barros to lead the small, southern Diocese of Osorno that sparked the abuse controversy in the country.

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Church administrators were appointed to run all three dioceses.

Then, on 18 May, all of Chile's bishops offered to resign after attending their own meeting with the Pope in the Vatican about the cover-up of sexual abuse in the south American nation.

In April, the pope publicly acknowledged that he had erred in handling the situation, saying he had made "serious mistakes" - and summoning Chile's bishops to an emergency meeting in Rome.

Under Pope Francis, a Vatican committee has been set up to fight sexual abuse and help victims.

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Victims of Fernando Karadima said Juan Barros had been present when the priest had abused them. Francis said he had misjudged Barros and the events in Chile because he hadn't been given "truthful and balanced information".

A number of high-ranking Catholic clergy in Chile have been accused by victims of turning a blind eye to or hushing up sex offenses committed by the pedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s. But the Scicluna-Bertomeu report exposed a far bigger scandal that has implicated several religious orders, including priests and brothers in the Franciscans, Legion of Christ, Marist Brothers and Salesian orders.

"This is huge not only for the Chilean church but for the entire world", Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean abuse survivor who helped lead a campaign pressuring the Vatican to take action, said in a phone interview, echoing public comments from other victims and church-reform advocates.

The pope said sorry for unwittingly "wounding" Karadima's victims who say Barros, one of the charismatic Karadima's proteges', shielded the abuser from justice.

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"I told him that Barros was watching us when we were abused, I think that's clear to him now", Juan Carlos Cruz said. While the Pope has said removing bishops is a necessary step, he has also stressed an intent to tackle the root causes of the abuse problem which he believes goes beyond making personnel changes.

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