Pope Francis receives victims of Chilean paedophile priest

Pope Francis receives victims of Chilean paedophile priest
Chilean sexual abuse victims (from left) Jose Andres Murillo and his wife, James Hamilton and his wife and Juan Carlos Cruz, attend the Sunday Angelus prayer delivered by the Pope.
PHOTO: AFP

VATICAN CITY - Three victims of a Chilean paedophile priest have held private meetings with Pope Francis, as the Vatican tries to quell a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in Chile.

The men, all victims of the paedophile priest Fernando Karadima, were in Vatican City at the personal invitation of the pope, who in April admitted "grave mistakes" in his handling of the abuse controversy in Chile.

Juan Carlos Cruz said his meeting with Francis on Sunday (April 29), which lasted more than two hours, was wide-ranging and gave him "more hope for our Church, even though the task is enormous".

"I am moved, he listened to me with great respect, affection and closeness, like a father," Cruz said on Twitter.

The Vatican had said last week that Francis would seek to "ask for their forgiveness, share their hurt and the shame they have suffered".

Jose Andres Murillo said he told Francis in his audience late Friday how important it was to understand that sexual abuse was "abuse of power", and "the need to take responsibility... not just forgiveness".

The pope has faced flak in Chile over the handling of an alleged cover-up by Bishop Juan Barros of abuse by Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.

In January, the pontiff had strongly defended Barros, who appeared at public masses celebrated by the pope in three different Chilean cities, causing a public outcry.

However, he later apologised to the victims and dispatched Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a renowned Vatican investigator, to Chile to collect evidence.

Local Catholic groups in Barros's diocese have since demanded that Francis remove the bishop for his ties to Karadima, who the Vatican in 2011 found guilty of abusing children in the 1980s and 1990s and ordered to retire to a life of penitence.

The third victim James Hamilton said his meeting with Francis was "sincere, warm and very constructive".

They are expected to hold a joint press conference on Wednesday.

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