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Three survivors of clerical sex abuse urged Pope Francis to turn his words into action against the “networks of abuse” in the Catholic Church. At a news conference in Rome, Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton Sanchez and Jose Andres Murillo, all from Chile, spoke of the five days they spent with Pope Francis as his guests at Casa Santa Marta in Vatican City. Cruz said the Pope told him, “I was part of the problem. I caused this and I apologise to you.” Francis invited the survivors to the Vatican after apologising for “grave errors” in his handling of a Chilean sex abuse scandal.

barros.jpegPope Francis had initially discounted the survivors’ testimony against Bishop Juan Barros, whom the survivors say witnessed and covered-up abuses in Chile. The Pope appointed Barros a bishop in 2015 over the objections of residents of the southern city of Osorno. Cruz is one of the accusers. He said Barros covered up for the Rev. Fernando Karadima, whom the Vatican found guilty of child sex abuse in 2011. Francis appointed Barros as bishop of Osorno in 2015 and defended him strenuously for three years, calling accusations against him “calumny.” He later apologised to the victims and admitted that his choice of words wounded many.

A short time later, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis was sending a trusted investigator to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop Barros. The investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, is president of a board of review within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The board handles appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse or other serious crimes. The archbishop also had 10 years of experience as the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of clerical sex abuse cases at the doctrinal congregation.

Pope Francis said Archbishop Scicluna and his aide, Fr Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, heard the testimony of 64 people and presented him with more than 2,300 pages of documentation. Not all of the witnesses spoke about Fr Karadima and Bishop Barros; several of them gave testimony about abuse alleged to have occurred at a Marist Brothers’ school.

After a “careful reading” of the testimonies, the Pope said, “I believe I can affirm that all the testimonies collected speak in a brutal way, without additives or sweeteners, of many crucified lives and, I confess, it has caused me pain and shame.”