Pope Francis is sending investigators back to Chile to look into historical child abuse and accusations a bishop covered up crimes against minors, the Vatican said Thursday.
Francis said the church should be ashamed of its treatment of victims, and must move past the historical culture of abuse and secrecy.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna, one of the Vatican’s top prosecutors for sex abuse, and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu will carry out investigations in Osorno over abuse by Chilean priest Father Fernando Karadima and his followers.
Karadima was found guilty of child sex abuse by the Vatican in 2011. Victims said Osorno Bishop Juan Barros, who Francis appointed in 2015 over local residents’ objections, covered up Karadima’s crimes.
Francis had initially discounted the survivors’ testimony against Barros, and defended him strenuously for three years, calling accusations against him “calumny.”
Barros has denied knowing about what he called the “serious abuses” of Karadima and has said he never approved or participated in those actions.
In the statement Thursday, the Vatican said the Pope will send a personally-written letter to the Chilean church, addressing the issue, and will also meet with Chilean abuse victims in Rome over the weekend.
Francis said one of the church’s “main faults and omissions” was in “not knowing how to listen to victims,” according to the Catholic News Agency.
Because of that, he said, “partial conclusions were drawn, which lacked crucial elements for a healthy and clear discernment,” adding he felt “shame” over his past actions.
Francis has previously apologized for his own “grave errors” in handling the Chilean sex abuse scandal.
Allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church stretch across multiple countries with large Catholic populations, including Austria, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and perhaps most famously, the United States, where children accused more than 4,000 priests of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002, according to a report compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In May, Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson was convicted of covering up sexual abuse and faces up to two years in prison. He is the highest ranking Catholic official to be convicted of concealing others’ crimes. He is due to be sentenced on June 19.
As part of his defense, Wilson’s legal team argued that as child sexual abuse was not considered a serious crime in the 1970s, it was not worthy of being reported to authorities.
Another Australian priest, Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell, is currently on trial for multiple charges of historical abuse.
CNN’s Delia Gallagher and Lindsay Isaac contributed reporting.