Pope thanks Chilean bishops for steps taken to address abuse scandal

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chilean bishops’ conference

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After the bishops of Chile issued a
formal apology for failing to listen to clerical abuse victims and drew up
national guidelines for responding to abuse allegations, Pope Francis sent them
a handwritten letter of thanks.

“I am struck by the work of reflection, discernment and
the decisions you have made,” the pope wrote in the letter dated Aug. 5
and posted on the website of the Chilean bishops’ conference.

Addressed to Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, the military
ordinary and conference president, Pope Francis’ letter praised the decisions
as “realistic and concrete.”

The bishops, who have been accused of interfering with the
pursuit of justice by alleged victims, promised to draw up a formal agreement
with the national prosecutor’s office to share information; vowed to
release information on investigations carried out within their dioceses and
urged the superiors of religious orders to do the same; expanded the
competencies of their national review board and appointed a laywoman lawyer to
lead it; and appointed another laywoman to direct the new Department for
the Prevention of Abuse within the bishops’ conference.

Pope Francis told the bishops that what “struck me
most” about the decisions made in early August was “the example of an
episcopal community united in guiding the holy, faithful people of God. Thank
you for this edifying example.”.

The pope’s letter, in tone and in its informality, was
markedly different than one he sent them in April when he apologized to abuse
survivors for making “serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of
the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced
information,” presumably from the bishops.

He summoned the country’s bishops to Rome for a three-day
meeting in May. At the end of the meeting, most of the bishops offered the pope
their resignations. By late June, he had accepted five of the resignations.

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