Three Catholic bishops resign over sex abuse scandal

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Pope Francis promised last month to Chilean Catholics scarred by a culture of clergy sexual abuse that "never again" would the church ignore them or the cover-up of abuse in their country.

Francis had named the 61-year-old Barros bishop of Osorno in 2015 and defended the appointment despite widespread protests that followed in Chile.

"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.

Barros, Bishop Gonzalo Duarte of Valparaiso and Bishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt tendered their resignations last month along with Chile's remaining 31 bishops. Both men are 75, the age when bishops normally retire.

The pope irked victims by saying during a recent trip to Chile that there was not a "shred of proof" against Barros.

Francis realized he had misjudged the Chilean situation after meeting with Cruz and reading the 2,300-page report compiled by two leading Vatican investigators about the depth of Chile's scandal, which has devastated the credibility of the church in a once overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country in the pope's native Latin America.

He has since received two groups of Karadima's victims at the Vatican.

Since 2000, about 80 Catholic priests have been reported to authorities in Chile for alleged sexual abuse.

In the statement announcing the resignations, the Vatican explained the Pope has also appointed apostolic administrators to lead the three dioceses in the interim.

The two investigators will meet Wednesday with Canon law experts from Chilean dioceses who will provide "technical and legal assistance" in order to "provide adequate responses to each case of child sexual abuse committed by clerics or religious", Scicluna told reporters.

It qualifies the removal of certain prelates from their roles as necessary but "insufficient", calling for "the roots" that allowed for such abuse within an "elitist and authoritarian" Chilean church to be examined. "Is that clear?" the Pope had said at the time.

Claros said Barros' exit was the "minimum condition" to begin a dialogue with the Vatican to try to rebuild peace in the diocese, and he called for a process to find "truth, justice and reparation" for the damage caused.

"I can not help but express the pain and shame, shame that I feel over the irreparable harm caused to children by church ministers", Francis said at La Moneda government palace in Santiago.

Barros is accused of protecting pedophile priest Fernando Karadima and ignoring the experiences of victims.

The scandal and fury over the bishop cast a dark shadow over Francis' visit to Chile earlier this year: At least five churches were attacked in Santiago -some with firebombs - and a death threat was made against the pope.

Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean Catholic Church, noted that the pope has said the case will require short, medium and long-term measures.

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